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CCCIA marks 45 years with celebration

By Staff | May 13, 2016

In the 45 years of its existence, the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association has had its ups and its downs – booms and recessions, and even the brink of dissolution, but the group is stronger than ever.

That was the tone Thursday as the CCCIA celebrated the milestone anniversary at the organization’s monthly dinner meeting at the Palmetto Pine Country Club.

Past presidents, Robert Greco, Annette Carrasquillo, Brian Gomer, David Mulicka and Darryl Aubuchon all reminisced about their fondest (and not so fondest) memories about the CCCIA.

While the size of the CCCIA has ebbed and flowed, its mission has always been the same.

“We have always been the advocate for the building industry. Our biggest accomplishment is that we’re the organization that is looking out for everyone,” said Executive Director Bill Johnson Jr.

Greco remembered being dragged to his first meeting in February 1976 at age 20. But after that, he was hooked for life, never missing a meeting for the next 15 years.

The highlight of that meeting, Greco recalled, was when Gary Spaniak presented the idea of building a house and raffling it off to benefit MDA.

“I never realized then what I get to experience over seeing what this organization was then to what it is now,” Grieco said, adding that many of the people who were there then are no longer with us. “If there was an issue or some need in the community, somebody always started a fundraising campaign on the spot.”

The CCCIA got started shortly after Cape Coral was incorporated in 1970. Greco said the first thing the city did was write ordinances, some of which nobody understood.

“We called it the big black book of no,” Grieco said. “There was a truck ordinance that you couldn’t park a pickup truck in front of your house. This really upset the contractors to the point where they got together to create a unified voice.”

The first CCCIA meeting was held in March 1971 at the VFW Hall. The first thing they did, Greco said, was to sue the city of Cape Coral.

But they also gave back, donating the labor in 1978 for the Chamber of Commerce building and the expansion of the Special Pops building, for example.

But the first few years were tough. With no cell phones or e-mails, the CCCIA formed a telephone committee to have people call members to let them know something special was coming up, which were important because it was the only time they would see each other. The CCCIA didn’t have its first paid employee until 1979, when Ginny Molano became executive secretary.

But as the computer age came along, the CCCIA looked like it would go the way of the cassette tape. Membership dropped, the charter members were gone, and by 1997 was one vote away from being disbanded, Greco said.

But then Gary Aubuchon became president and found a woman named Patty Schnell to become executive director, and things turned around.

“By 2001, we had more than 200 people. We have almost 300 members today. We had a lot of fun. It was more than business, it was fellowship,” Greco said. “Most of my friends today are those I met in the CCCIA.”

Carrasquillo attended her first meeting in 1982 at age 12. She said they CCCIA has always taken on issues with the city government, such as when the city wanted to have a moratorium on construction on Burnt Store Road in 2002, which the CCCIA helped get defeated.

“They believe in their clients’ rights, want to promote the city and make it a better place, but also want it to work together,” Carrasquillo said.

“I finished everything Annette started,” Gomer said about his presidency the following year.

Darryl Aubuchon became president in 2006, where he faced a tool theft crisis during the boom and personal issues that made him question whether he wanted to be president.

“Patti and Mike McCartney sat me down and she said she knew I was going through transition, but you need to do this. You will be happy you did,” Darryl Aubuchon said. “They were right.”

Two years later, Aubuchon lost $12 million in commercial contracts and was out of work. He called Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, who helped him on the site theft issue, and got a job working for him, which he still does today.

State. Rep. Dane Eagle, who also spoke at the meeting about the legislative session, said 45 years is an impressive milestone.

“It shows the need of such an organization. It’s one of the most important associations we have and it’s always a pleasure to be around them,” Eagle said.

City Councilmember Marilyn Stout, a 34-year resident of Cape Coral, was among those marking the organization’s anniversary.

“It was great looking up and seeing all those past presidents and still see some of them tonight,” Stout said. “It’s a great organization. It’s on the level of the Chamber.”