Are you a contractor looking to increase the amount of bridge construction your firm does? Maybe you work for a government transportation agency and need a new team of bridge specialists, or your utility company needs assistance building and maintaining utility infrastructure on bridges.
Though the bridge industry is highly specialized, it actually takes a village to build a bridge. This network of government agencies and officials, designers, engineers, model builders, contractors, equipment rental companies, inspectors, transportation authorities, utility companies, and others can help you locate the help you need.
You just need to be smart about how you use your network.
In this article, we’ll explain how you can optimize your current business network, grow it over time, and leverage it more effectively.
LinkedIn is the leading online resource for professionals in different fields, including the bridge industry. It’s a great tool to find work, stay connected with former colleagues, and build new business relationships.
If you’re looking for new work or a supplier, start by reviewing your current LinkedIn connections. People you’re working with now or have worked with in the past might be able to help. Don’t be bashful about reaching out to them. Remember, everyone is on LinkedIn for the same purpose. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s built-in messaging tool to communicate; this is especially helpful to reach people you haven’t talked with in a long time.
Remember: People on LinkedIn who may not be able to help you out directly could refer you to someone who can.
Next, take advantage of LinkedIn groups. They’re online communities of people who work in similar fields or have common interests. They let people share helpful information and network informally online.
Some communities for people in bridge-related professions include:
Bridge Engineers (12,000+ members)
Designed for anyone who would like to network about projects and share information related to industry events and news, construction, inspections, careers, and other relevant topics.
Bridge Construction Technology (5,000+ members)
An international forum for sharing information on new and emerging bridge technology and modern construction methods.
Bridge Engineering Group International (5,000+ members)
An international network of bridge engineers formed to:
- share information.
- seek technical advice or expert contacts.
- promote the advancement of the profession.
A group that discusses bridge safety inspections, bridge load ratings, and load posting compliance verification in accordance with the National Bridge Inspection Standards.
Road Construction — Heavy & Highway (10,000+ members)
This group bills itself as a place for professionals in the road construction industry to network.
Highways Maintenance Professionals (8,000+ members)
The purpose of this group is to create a forum where road, motorway, and highway professionals can get in touch and network with peers and colleagues in the road maintenance sector.
All you need to do is go online and ask permission to join these groups (usually an easy process). Once you’re approved to join, you can network, ask questions, and share information within the guidelines of the group.
Idea: Think about starting your own LinkedIn Group, perhaps one to support bridge professionals in your local area. It might be a good way to find the kind of support you need.
Public hearings and workshops
Another great place to build your network and connect with others interested in upcoming bridge construction projects is to monitor roadwork-related public hearing and workshop websites and attend these sessions.
These meetings are held to gather comments, input, and information about bridge construction projects from businesses and people in the community that could be impacted. However, they can also be a good way to meet and network with people in government and business. Most states and localities maintain lists of these meetings, and they can be extensive. A few examples:
Texas Department of Transportation
The Texas Department of Transportation welcomes everyone in the planning and project implementation process for bridges, highways, and other transportation projects to attend their meetings. They make it easy to find sessions in different parts of the state. Plus, it’s simple to sign up for alerts and notices about topics you care about.
Virginia Department of Transportation
The state of Virginia offers a comprehensive list of hearings related to road projects. They even include maps and directions to meeting locations.
Florida Department of Transportation
Florida offers a highly detailed list of hearings, workshops, and other events related to bridge, road, and highway construction work.
Iowa Department of Transportation
The state of Iowa also offers a complete list of hearings and other events about planned bridge and road construction projects.
Tip: Some states and localities are not as organized as others when it comes to sharing information about bridge-related hearings, workshops, and other meetings. However, most are required to publish information about them. Take a few minutes regularly to search online; you’ll likely find press releases and ad hoc information that could be helpful.
Chambers of Commerce
Another popular networking and business development opportunity is to join and become an active member of a local chamber of commerce.
A chamber of commerce (or board of trade) is a business network or local organization of business owners and officials whose goal is to further the interests of businesses and communities. Business owners in towns and cities, including those in the construction and contracting fields, form these local societies to advocate on behalf of the business community.
There are more than 2,500 Chambers of Commerce across the United States, and they can have anywhere from a few dozen to many thousands of members. Whether you’re a business owner, work for a utility company, or are a government official, a chamber can be a great place to build beneficial relationships with the kind of people you want to do business with.
This list can help you find the chamber of commerce in your area.
Tip: The equipment suppliers or other vendors you work with every day can be a great resource to turn to for information and referrals. Don’t forget to reach out to them when you need help.
Conferences and conventions
Conferences and conventions are all about networking. Here are a few that you might want to attend:
International Bridge Conference
This conference bills itself as the pre-eminent arena for the bridge industry in North America, Europe, and Asia. It is presented by the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania. It attracts more than 1,500 bridge owners and engineers, senior policy makers, government officials, bridge designers, construction executives, and suppliers from across the United States and the world.
This conference has been around for more than 30 years. It usually takes place in June and provides extensive continuing education and networking opportunities.
American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI) Convention
The ASBI is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to provide a forum where bridge owners, designers, constructors, and suppliers can meet to refine the design, construction, and project management procedures of concrete segmental bridges.
They have had a national conference for almost 30 years. This year, it takes place in Long Beach, California in November. The schedule is full of sessions related to improving bridge construction techniques, along with exhibitor demonstrations.
National Accelerated Bridge Construction Conference
This conference is sponsored by the Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, which is a division of Florida International University. It focuses on topics related to fast bridge-building techniques.
The Steel Bridge Symposium is an annual event that usually takes place in April. It is sponsored by the National Steel Bridge Alliance, which is a division of the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing steel bridge design and construction.
The conference brings together bridge design engineers, construction professionals, academicians, transportation officials, fabricators, erectors, and constructors to discuss and learn state-of-the-art practices for enhancing steel bridge design, fabrication, and construction techniques.
Joining an association of people who care about bridge construction and design can also help you build valuable new connections. Believe it or not, there are a large number related to different aspects of the bridge construction industry, including engineering, manufacturing, construction, and research. Here are a few to consider:
The Association for Bridge Construction and Design
Pittsburg is a city famous for its bridges. That city’s Association for Bridge Construction and Design is a leading group of educators, engineers, contractors, and material and equipment suppliers. The goals of the organization are to:
- Educate bridge designers, constructors, government officials, and the general public about bridge safety.
- Improve and encourage the science of bridge design, construction, and reconstruction by providing a forum for exchanging information.
- Provide technical information and assistance to public and private authorities.
American Road and Transportation Builders Association
This organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a federation with the primary goal of aggressively growing the nation’s transportation infrastructure investment, including money dedicated to bridge construction, in order to meet the public and business demand for safe and efficient travel. It offers programs and services designed to give its public and private sector members a competitive edge.
International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering
This organization is dedicated to all aspects of bridge design and structural engineering, including the science and art of planning, design, construction, operation, monitoring and inspection, maintenance, rehabilitation and preservation, and demolishing and dismantling of structures. The group offers opportunities to share information about the technical, economic, environmental, and aesthetic aspects of bridges.
This website offers a comprehensive list of associations and groups you might be interested in joining.
The community of people involved in bridge construction and design can be a great resource for growing a business or finding new suppliers and vendors. For additional tools that can help you stay in the loop with infrastructure and utility trends, check out our post here.