Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
in British Columbia, Canada
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Originally published May 1, 2004
Skilled Trades Crisis
Podmore, President & CEO of Concert
Properties has a track record many aspire to, but one that most will
only dream about. In the last few weeks heard Podmore speak at a Vancouver
Board of Trade meeting and most recently at a dinner hosted by the Vancouver
Regional Construction Association.
The VRCA put on a great spread, complete with a cash bar and a tasty seafood
pasta meal catered by the Hilton
Metrotown. During the evening I had a chance to meet with a number
of VRCA Members and exchange views regarding Olympic construction news.
Unfortunately, on this front I didn't detect the sense of urgency I was
Most people in the construction industry, and for that matter most small
business leaders in the GVRD seem to woefully underestimate the impact
the Olympics will have on small and mid size business. Podmore gets it,
maybe even more than VANOC's
John Furlong. I don't mean to criticize Furlong. His position is driven
more from a sports and community perspective while Podmore seems to have
a firmer grasp on the impact the Olympics will have for businesses in
the region, including SMBs (small & mid size business). Podmore is
saying all the right things and is cautioning everyone in all the appropriate
areas, especially regarding the skilled trades shortage, but I don't think
his laid-back west coast demeanor is getting through, at least not yet.
Podmore delivers his message clearly and with resolve, but his intellectual
CEO approach isn't simple enough for the general construction populace.
If they get it they certainly aren't expressing it. Granted, Olympic construction
projects are small in comparison to RAV and the Port Authority, both economically
and in terms of complexity, but from a public relations perspective, absolutely
nothing will mean more to the GVRD and SMBs than making sure the Olympic
facilities are built on time, on budget and with a bit of style. By far
the facility that will deliver the greatest short, mid and long term impact
will be the convention center. The whole world is watching and waiting
for an invitation to knock on our door. All you have to do consider the
numbers from the Sydney 2000 Games to see what happens when you do it
right. It will blow you away.
For almost a decade I've developed construction industry communication
strategies funded by the provincial government and targeted across all
skilled trades sectors. We've had tremendous success and response. (Click
my picture above for my background in this respect) I learned quickly
to be blunt and hit hard. Construction people are salt of the earth. They
are busy and often don't have time for subtleties. This is one of the
reasons I like working with them. No B.S. However, if you don't speak
their language and communicate forcefully or directly they don't hear
you. I've sat in a few labour boardrooms where tempers flared, people
went nose to nose and the air turned blue with expletive deletives. When
it was over four hours later we all ended up in the local pub with most
of the serious issues resolved and all feeling relatively unscathed.
I'm beginning to think similar tactics might be necessary in order to
shake the construction industry up a bit, especially after watching the
happening in Athens. Podmore spoke of the difficulty of finding enough
skilled tradespeople in Canada. He informed everyone at the Board of Trade
meeting and the VRCA dinner that the rest of Canada also has busy construction
agendas. He warned both audiences it's not like it was in '86 when we
could borrow labour from Alberta or Newfoundland.
We certainly don't have time to train people, which means one of the few
remaining options is to lobby government and encourage them to loosen
immigration regulations. I saw a few people shift in their seats when
they heard this approach. Some even harumphed.
I spoke briefly with Gordon Campbell last week at a Kitsilano Chamber
of Commerce breakfast and I don't recall this being part of his current
agenda. Should it be in his cross hairs? Certainly. It takes time to get
anything done at a federal level and if we don't start today deadlines
*Ed. Note: We invested over three years and a six-figure budget researching
Olympic organization relationships with sponsors, contractors, suppliers,
partners, etc. The results surprised us too -- mouseover below
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businesses face. Leverage
Olympic organizations are
BIG BUSINESS MACHINES that attract corporations like Kodak,
CocaCola, McDonald's, Wal*Mart, etc. Consequently, VANOC (Vancouver
Organizing Committee) will be stretched thin trying to also develop ways
to assist small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum. Surprisingly,
many people don't realize the event can also be lucrative for smaller
businesses including agriculture, manufacturers, entertainment, technology,
retail & obviously tourism, even when they don't have products
or services that appeal to Olympic fans or serve a direct Olympic need.
The information we share here is invaluable in helping
small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum.
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