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Labor and management has accomplished much in our industry individually, but when the two entities collaborate together to increase market share, the results can be truly impressive. An example of this can be found in Illinois, where a labor management partnership has increased opportunities for industrial painting contractors. Read on for an article from The Tri-Council Development Fund on opportunities created through labor management cooperation.

The Tri-Council Development Fund (TCDF) is a partnership between the three Illinois finishing trades unions (District Councils 14, 30, and 58) and the contractor associations FCA of Illinois, FCA of Chicago and the Associated General Contractors of America representing DC 58 contractors.

As a community-focused initiative, the TCDF partners with municipal governments, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders on projects that strengthen communities and catalyze inclusive growth.

One priority area for the TCDF is its work in community infrastructure resilience. In communities across Illinois, corrosion has weakened municipal water infrastructure systems, resulting in crumbling water supply and wastewater system assets. This can drain resources, increase operational costs, pose serious health and safety threats, and rob opportunities by discouraging business growth.

The TCDF’s work in infrastructure resilience quickly grew into a new initiative, called the Corrosion Illinois Network (CIN). Developed to be a “concierge service” for infrastructure stakeholders across the state, the CIN provides educational programs, technical assistance, and training opportunities in corrosion prevention and mitigation – all at no cost. In doing so, the CIN helps communities reduce long-term operational costs, protect public health and safety, and maintain robust water systems that are critical for growth.

The flagship program of the CIN is its Asset Protection Program. At the heart of this program is the creation of ten-year Asset Protection Plans for client water supply and wastewater treatment systems.  Funded entirely by the TCDF, this planning includes the inspection of all water supply and wastewater treatment assets by a licensed engineering firm and the development of plans for maintenance, repair, or replacement as necessary. In addition to prioritizing maintenance and repair projects by fiscal year, plans include project cost projections and a preventive maintenance inspection schedule for each asset. The schedules provide for regular asset inspection and maintenance to prolong the asset coating system life, thereby controlling corrosion and extending the life of the asset.

In order to ensure that asset protection planning results in increased system safety and stability – and long term cost savings communities – the program requires that water system owners and operators agree to use CIN-certified contractors for all corrosion prevention and mitigation work stipulated in the plan. Contractors achieve CIN certification based on their ability and willingness to adhere to industry standards and best practices. In addition, they are required to follow all applicable state and local laws and regulations and must be affiliated with a federally accredited vocational school that offers the highly specialized training and certifications required to achieve the highest skill level in industrial coatings application.

More than a dozen communities across the state have already taken advantage of the Asset Protection Program, with asset inspections and plan development now in process.  Moreover, many other communities have expressed interest and are taking steps to adopt the program for their water systems.

On the heels of its initial success, the CIN is preparing to expand the program to ensure that any community, regardless of available resources, can take advantage of the program and help ensure long-term protection of its vital water system infrastructure.

The TCDF sees a bright future ahead. Moving forward, the alliance plans to add a workforce development initiative to its project list when it partners with the training facilities at each District Council to create a pre-apprenticeship program in industrial coatings application. Work in this field, which is essential to corrosion prevention and mitigation, is both demanding and highly technical. It is also an area that provides significant opportunities for career advancement and household-sustaining employment. “This is a natural space for us to be in,” said Todd Dotson, TCDF Executive Director. “While helping communities keep their infrastructure assets healthy, we want to make sure we are training the next generation of industrial coatings specialists, so the bench strength is there to support the industry.”

For more information on the Corrosion Illinois Network and its Asset Protection Program, visit