Meet Merit Manitoba’s New Business Relations Co-ordinator

Brad Murray enters the newly created position and he’s looking forward to meeting you

By Paul Adair

Merit Contractors Association of Manitoba was incorporated in 1994 and is the only industry association in Manitoba to serve the unique needs of open shop companies and their employees. Merit Manitoba is one of eight open shop organizations across Canada and is a member of Merit Canada, which is the national voice of Canada’s open shop group. Merit Canada currently serves more than 5,000 members, who employ over 80,000 Canadians, and represents the companies and workers that build more than 70 per cent of the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential construction projects coast to coast.

Across Manitoba, Merit brings tremendous value in regard to providing comprehensive benefit plans for its almost 250 member companies who employ over 7,000 Manitobans. These plans are customized based on member needs and are geared towards the construction industry.

Last March, Merit welcomed Brad Murray to the newly created role of business relations co-ordinator, a position that was created to better Merit members and to grow the membership by espousing the important benefits and programs the association provides.

“Merit Manitoba has been around for 25 years and, in that time, they have grown the organization basically through word of mouth and referrals,” said Murray. “Recently, however, the board chose to become more proactive, deciding to expand the organization more quickly and aggressively. So they created the position of business relations co-ordinator and, when I saw it posted, I knew that it would be a natural fit for me.”

Murray comes to Merit Manitoba with a strong background in group benefits and sales. In the four years before taking on his new role, he was working in the benefits and pension industry for an independent Winnipeg-based company. Prior to that, Murray was with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in a sales role, primarily responsible for working with existing CFIB members, as well as bringing on new members. In addition to this, he also ran a company of his own that provided select services to Manitoba businesses.

“I have been dealing with business owners in a number of sales positions for the last 20 years,” said Murray. “So this new role with Merit Manitoba just seemed like a perfect combination of everything I have done up to now; and it’s worked out really well. I just really enjoy an environment where I can get out and help people. I get a charge out of being able to assist a business owner in saving money and knowing that I am giving them something of value that will benefit them – as well as their employees – for years to come.”

As the new business relations co-ordinator, Murray will meet with all of Merit Manitoba’s membership each year to receive feedback on the association’s efforts and the direction Merit is heading. This ‘boots on the ground’ approach to business relations will allow Merit a better method to communicate directly to its members exactly what the board is working on as it relates to future projects and initiatives.

“This part of my job has proven to be very successful over the last summer,” said Murray. “In addition to the feedback we receive, which provides direction to our advocacy goals, these face-to-face meetings will often result in current members giving me referrals of friends, family or business associates, who I then go out to meet with and explain the benefits of being with Merit.”

Before joining Merit, Murray was not fully aware of the scale or scope of the association within Manitoba, or the value of its customizable benefits offerings. Murray was particularly surprised by what Merit brings to the table in terms of its work in providing training and advocacy for its members.

“If you are not in construction, you just don’t hear a lot about what Merit does,” said Murray. “Because of this, not everyone can see the value in what we do, such as engaging with different levels of government in order to cut through layers of red tape or promoting infrastructure spending. But when you can see it in action and it works, it truly gives me great satisfaction in knowing that I am doing something important for this industry and our members.”

Merit’s membership has been very welcoming to Murray as he shows up to inform them that the board has put ‘feet on the street’ and actively seeks their input on the issues that are getting in their way and slowing them down.

“I have found that members are really pleased to have somebody out there they can talk to face-to-face,” said Murray. “And they appreciate the fact that Merit is now working at growing the organization because they know that the bigger we are, the more buying power we have and the better it is for our members overall.”

Looking forward, Murray hopes to leverage Merit’s expanding reach and influence to help stave off some of the more pressing challenges currently facing the Manitoba construction industry, such as the recruitment and retention of skilled trades personnel in all parts of the province.

As part of this, Merit will continue to offer its members a wide range of training options such as online training, traditional classroom training and conducting partnership training with other like-minded organizations. In addition, Merit will continue to provide tuition bursary reimbursement for Manitoba apprentices so that when they return from learning their craft, they are able to receive peace of mind and recoup some of the expense of their schooling.

“Being able to secure those skilled workers, supporting them in attaining the extra training they require and then [being] able to help our members grow their workforce from within is appreciated by our membership,” said Murray. “It also helps that our benefits program is portable and fully transferable from one Merit company to another. So, if an employee leaves one company and goes to another, they are able to take their benefits along with them.”

Merit also seeks to step up its lobbying efforts on important issues such as infrastructure spending and government procurement. Infrastructure investment, particularly in rural Manitoba, has been in sharp decline over the last few years and has had a direct and noticeable effect on Merit’s membership, and the construction industry as a whole.

“We will continue to engage with the different levels of government and attempt to influence public policy that will benefit our members and the construction industry here in Manitoba,” said Murray. “We need more commitment to infrastructure spending on our schools, hospitals and roads, really anything that helps to grow our neighbourhoods and our communities will be dollars for our members that will see them thrive, as well as attract and retain employees. Fair and open procurement policies that encourage all Manitoba companies to bid on government work is another issue of importance to a significant segment of Merit members and one that we continue to advocate on.”

Born and raised in southern Manitoba near Pierson, Murray now lives on an acreage an hour’s drive north of Winnipeg. In his free time, he enjoys being surrounded by family, working away in the garden or tinkering at his home shop, where he can be found constantly repairing and fixing things for his grandchildren.n