AGM: OCA thrives with record-breaking membership and significant financial surplus

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watson clunie gavel
Mark Watson (L) hands the chair's gavel to Greg Clunie at the Ottawa Construction Association's annual general meeting

Outgoing Ottawa Construction Association (OCA) chair Mark Watson handled the leadership gavel to Greg Clunie at the association’s annual general meeting on Feb. 28 – an event that attracted the largest number of AGM registrations (440) in the OCA’s history.

The transition occurred as the association reported healthy statistics. OCA membership also reached a record 1,185. “In 2017 we anticipate having in excess of 1,200 members,” Clunie said in his acceptance speech.

This membership growth helped the association earn a $255,853 surplus on revenues of $2,449,737, treasurer Wayne Jennings reported. Meanwhille, Watson observed in his speech that the OCA has among the lowest membership dues in Canada for comparable associations (and dues haven’t increased in several years.)

The OCA’s underlying assets also increased to $6,983,060. Much of this money is in cash and short-term investments. The association received a $3 million repayment for a vendor take back mortgage at 196 Bronson and will close on March 17 the purchase of its new location on 9 Antares Dr. for $2,995,000 (See separate story).

The OCA staff provided 33,668 bidding opportunities to members, a 400 per cent increase in the last 10 years, Watson said. This electronic lead flow occurred in an environment where Ottawa building permits reached the second highest level on record, with more than $2.6 billion issued.

“It’s true that last year’s total beat 2015’s by more than 20 per cent and fell just short of meeting the record total set in 2014,” the OCA annual report said.

However, Watson, in reading the report, says the high building permit number showed an imperfect picture, with the work concentrated in a few very large project and intense competition for available work for smaller projects.

The OCA said “work on smaller jobs, such as school buildings, retail complexes, even the bread-and-butter type of renovations to public sector buildings, was much slower than usual.”

“As a result, the city’s larges general and subcontractors – those with the expertise and the resources to build such mega projects – thrived, while those in the middle of he market and below found themselves wondering where there next project would come form. Indeed, some smaller-value public tender projects hosted at the OCA plans room last year saw as many as 10 or 14 bidders.”

“What does the crystal ball portend for 2017?” the OCA report asked. “Perhaps not a record year, but all signs point to another healthy year. Projections are for the following projects to come online: Trinity Station at 900 Albert St., the Lebreton Flats redevelopment, the Zibi project on Chaudiere Island, phase two of the light rail line, the rehabilitation of the Centre Block of Parliament, a large rehabilitation at Chalk River Laboratories, and two new Hydro Ottawa projects.

“Notable by their omission from most pundit’s lists are condominium towers and downtown office developments,” the OCA reported. “The market for the former is saturated at the moment, and downtown vacancy rates are such that it will be likely for some time before anyone builds a new tower downtown.”

This suggests that the current OCA headquarter on Bronson could remain vacant when the association moves to Antares Dr. next year. In an interview, OCA president John DeVries said he believes the association was fortunate to sell its old home at the market peak and was thankful that condo developer Lamb Developments didn’t walk from the deal when it came time to repay the vendor take back mortgage this January (which would have been possible because the purchase was set up through a special purpose corporation.)

After the annual general meeting, Grey Cup-winning quarterback Henry Burris offered a motivational speech, where he described how he pushed through adversity with his team to succeed, including his game-time knee injury that propelled the Ottawa RedBlacks to victory just three seasons after the team started playing at Lansdowne Park. Burris says he is learning to adapt to 3:30 a.m. wake-up requirements for his new career as a co-host on CTV Morning Live.

Then members enjoyed a networking and social evening.

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