The mission of ACI is to develop and disseminate consensus-based knowledge on concrete and its uses. How does this happen? Here is a brief summary of a very daunting task. ACI is a Standards Developing Organization (SDO), which means we must follow generally accepted consensus guidelines. The Technical Activities Committee (TAC) is the group that manages these consensus guidelines and therefore manages ACI's mission.
I recently attended the ACI Chapter Leadership Training, which is held annually in Farmington Hills, MI, at ACI headquarters in mid-May. This 1.5-day event was attended by U.S. and international chapter officers. There were 28 ACI members present, plus staff. This is the second year in a row that I have had the privilege of attending this event. Every chapter had the opportunity to send their leadership to this training session. The intent was for participants to return to their local chapters with tools to help improve chapter performance, to gain access to a network of fellow chapter officers to call if necessary, and receive an update of what is going on with ACI. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm, candor, and information sharing between the participants. Everyone participated and shared their best practices. Staff did a great job of coordinating this event. If your chapter has not participated in this training, I would personally recommend it for next year.
The local ACI chapter is the initial ACI experience for many of our members. Many in the Institute consider local chapters as the roots of ACI. The local chapters are independent organizations that follow guidelines for chapter operations established by ACI. The chapter is where "the rubber meets the road." In other words, most chapter members are deeply involved with the local concrete construction community and are often the instructors and examiners for the various concrete certification programs. At present, 55 chapters serve as sponsoring groups for ACI certification programs.
In the current ACI Strategic Plan, chapters play an important role under the Engagement pillar to strengthen the relationships between chapters, ACI national members, and staff. When this plan was approved, ACI had less than one full-time equivalent (FTE) staff member supporting chapter operations. I remember ACI Past President Ken Hover coming to the Executive Committee with a proposal to hire additional staff to support the chapters. At that time, Ken was the Chair of the Chapter Activities Committee (CAC). Today, thanks to the input of CAC, ACI now has three full-time people who support the chapters: John Conn, Director of Chapter Activities; Cheryce Haddad, Chapter Awards and Activities Coordinator; and Kanette Mwanjabala, Chapter Services Coordinator.
The ACI Excellence in Concrete Construction Awards Program traces its roots to the local chapters. A number of chapters have held award programs for years. Suggestions were made to have the chapter winners compete for international awards. In 2015, ACI held its first Excellence in Concrete Construction Awards Gala. All entries came through local chapters or International Partners. If your chapter is not currently participating, ACI's Project Awards Guide is a step-by-step online reference on how to set up an awards program.
ACI has developed a series of 1-hour technical meeting presentations delivered by ACI staff for use by chapters. Programs are available on a first come basis and ACI will cover the speaker's travel expenses in the United States. Topics for 2016 include ACI Repair Code, Concrete Cracking, ACI Certification – Now and the Future, and Adhesive Anchor Installer and Inspector Certifications. Additional programs are being developed for 2017.
Each year, chapters submit an Annual Report Form, which is scored to determine the official Excellent or Outstanding Chapter designations. These chapters are all recognized at The ACI Concrete Convention and Exposition in the spring. Will your chapter be recognized in Detroit in 2017? I personally hope that we are able to recognize more chapters. Review the criteria to receive an Excellent or Outstanding Chapter Award designation and make the necessary adjustments to qualify. I know of chapters that successfully review this on a quarterly basis.
A new member benefit for local chapter members is currently being implemented: a free electronic version of Concrete International magazine. This will allow local chapter members who are not ACI members to stay up to date on what is happening at ACI. The only requirement for the local chapter is to provide a member list that includes e-mail addresses on an annual basis.
I began my ACI journey at the local chapter level in Southwest Ohio in 1978. The local chapters provide the opportunity for members to meet and connect with other professionals in this rewarding industry that we have chosen as our career. I still maintain that our chapters are the front line of the Institute and are critical for ACI as we carry out our mission.
Michael J. Schneider