IBR Article: A word with Wayne Hammon of the Idaho Association of General Contractors

A word with Wayne Hammon of the Idaho Association of General Contractors

By Anne Wallace Allen   February 22, 2016
 

Wayne Hammon is CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Idaho, a group created to promote and protect the interests of the construction industry.

AGC-Idaho has 562 members who work in buildings or in highways, all but about a dozen of them in Idaho. The group is one of 92 AGC chapters in the nation.

Hammon grew up on a farm in Blackfoot where his parents raised and exhibited Shire horses, and his father worked full time as a technician at the Idaho National Laboratory. The family used the horses for all of the field work, and traveled with them to fairs around western Canada and the western U.S.

Hammon went straight into government work after graduating with undergraduate and graduate degrees in public policy from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He started with an internship with Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, then moved to the office of Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig, where he stayed for more than four years working on farm policy. He worked as a lobbyist for the National Association of Wheat Growers before moving to work on farm policy for then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas. When Bush was elected president, Hammon moved back to Boise as state director for the Farm Service Agency at the United States Department of Agriculture and stayed there for six years until he joined Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter as state budget director. He served there six years before becoming AGC CEO in 2012.

Hammon spent some time with Idaho Business Review talking about the construction business. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

What was it like to leave the political realm?

After 18 years in the government, I am very happy working at a trade association. I still get to be involved in government and politics, but on any given day I work on membership activities,  training,  events,  the national issues, local issues. My day is much more diverse and I enjoy that.

What does the AGC do?

Advocacy is the big one. We lobby state government and we develop relationships with local decision-makers, mayors, city councils, and highway districts. We advocate for good public policy that will help advance Idaho so it’s a good place to do business.

We offer a health insurance plan so instead of buying insurance individually, the members can pool together. We are one of Blue Cross of Idaho’s 10 largest clients.

For our plan room services, we go out and hunt for all the jobs and get them all  at one site. I have two dedicated people working in the plan room.

We do a lot of training, including CPR, job site safety, fall prevention, forklift operator, management, how to communicate to your team, to your boss, how do you motivate others. We teach classes in construction law and documents.

There’s a networking  function as well. We run three golf tournaments every year, we have our convention in winter, a leadership retreat in summer, those type of events

Do you advocate in DC as well?

I go to Washington twice a year and it’s more for a national conference, not for lobbying. The Idaho congressional delegation is small and very reliable, and we have relationships with them. It’s different in California where you have 60 people to visit. Our guys, we know.

The national organization does the lobbying.

What are some policy issues ahead for Idaho AGC?

After the election, we want to engage Idaho decision-makers on a discussion about the road funding bill they passed last year. They did a very good job, and the registration fees and gas tax increase is continual, but the surplus eliminator sunsets after the current fiscal year, so they’ll need to address that in the 2017 session. We’ll have new people, so we’ll need to educate them about roads and bridges.

We’re working on a couple of things with jobs. One is to recruit people to our industry. There are lots of people working in this area: The community colleges, the four-year schools, and the state Department of Labor are all working on this issue, but not talking to each other necessarily.

We’ve launched a new web portal, We Build Idaho, a launching pad to connect out to the DOL, the College of Western Idaho, and Boise State University. We have paired with the Division of Professional-Technical Education. We work with the high school shop teachers association and find out what they need and advocate for that with local school boards.

You have a pretty quiet session ahead in the Legislature this year. Is there anything else going on that keeps you up at night?  

For the last year, 18 months, Idaho has led the nation in construction employment as growth. So there are two things that keep me up related to that. One: If this does continue, what are we doing to find the people to fill these jobs? How do we attract new people into our industry?

The second thing is, what if it doesn’t continue? We’re adding people, our companies are adding capacity, what happens if this is a bubble and it bursts?

Does this look like a bubble? 

I don’t believe it’s a bubble. There’s a lot of work in the plan room. There is work being advertised today that they don’t expect to begin construction on until late in the year, 6-7 months away.

They’re going to see the downturn before we do, so when they stop closing deals, stop developing new subdivisions, then we’ll know, and we’ll have a little bit of time to prepare.

 

Read the article on the Idaho Business Review's website HERE.

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