Last week, Jim Gray (chief executive of Gray Construction) flew to New York for a round of meetings.  As reported in the New York Times, it was Gray’s newly acquired title as Mayor of Lexington, Kentucky that prompted his visit to New York to chat with Mayor Bloomberg.  Contractors and politics … what can we learn from this duo?

There are significant similarities between the successful construction executive and the local politician.  Consider the NY Times’ job description of the mayor:

. . . to oversee the police, fire and school departments, and to make sure the potholes are filled, the snow is removed and the budget is balanced. An energetic mayor can create jobs far more directly than the federal government — by helping lure new industry to town, or giving companies tax breaks to help them expand. He or she can push for new development — and then, with any luck, preside over the ribbon-cutting when the development is complete. It is probably the most hands-on job you can have in government, and the one where you can most easily see the fruits of your labor.

A successful construction executive, who is involved in all aspects of the company and its projects, has similar traits.  In the end, it is about being a "customer focused" leader — whether you a talking about mayor or chief executive officer. 

But you don’t have to run for office to be involved politics.  It is equally important to follow the legislative trends, which you can do through industry groups like the Associated General Contractors of America or the American Road and Transportation Builders of America.   For example, earlier this year the Florida legislature attempted to raid the Transportation Trust Fund to pay for general expenditures.

Enter the contractor into the political process … Bob Burleson of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association (FTBA) recognized that the proposed raid would only push the real budget problems into the future, while freezing new transportation projects and eliminating tens of thousands of jobs in the present. An FTBA rally drew hundreds of protestors to Florida’s Capitol. This message came through loud and clear in Tallahassee: Governor Charlie Crist prevented the raid with a veto.

So, whether you are seeking govern a city with sound business experience like Jim Gray or seeking to defeat bad policies and legislation like Bob Burleson … get involved!

Image: wallyg