ABC & The Merit Shop

ABC Story

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction association representing more than 20,000 construction and construction-related firms in more than 70 chapters across the United States. It is one of the few associations within the industry that treats the entire construction team-general contractors, specialty contractors, suppliers, design professionals and associates - as equal partners.

ABC was established in 1950 when seven Maryland businessmen met to counter a massive organizing scheme by the local unions. Their courage and dedication to the merit (open) shop industry spread rapidly, and within time, ABC became the fastest growing association in the United States.

In 1970, 30 percent of the nation's construction was performed merit shop and six of the top 400 construction firms were ABC members. Today, the merit shop accounts for more than 85 percent of all construction across the country, and ABC's membership has grown to include more than half of the top 400 construction companies in the United States.

The merit shop philosophy maintains that the lowest responsible bidder should be awarded the project, regardless of union affiliation. ABC is the only construction organization in the country devoted exclusively to merit shop construction.

ABC represents its members at all levels of government. The association provides a complete range of craft training and management education products and services. ABC also operates the Contractor Referral Service to assist construction owners in contacting the appropriate contractor for a particular project. The dominance of merit shop construction would be impossible to chronicle without paralleling the history of ABC. The two are tied irrevocably together.

Telling the Story

2014-2019 Strategic Plan

To learn more about ABC's goals for the coming years, view the 2014-2019 Strategic Plan.

2016 Year IN Review


ABC 2016 Year in Review Cover image



To read more about what ABC accomplished in 2016, view the Year in Review.

The Merit Shop

Contractors should be invited to bid work based on their demonstrated ability to perform. They should be awarded work based on the merit of their proposal, (that is, the low responsible bidder). Regulation of the industry should be restricted to the lowest possible level. Government should have as little involvement as is reasonable.

The foundation is free enterprise. For most ABC members, the answer to every question about policy or position derives from the answer to the following question: Does it impede free, open and fair competition? If it does, it should be opposed. If it does not, but does not enhance free, open and fair competition, it should be opposed. Only if it encourages free, open and fair competition should it be supported. If you have to ask what ABC’s position is on an issue, you don’t know ABC.

For most, ABC is a belief. Ask Gary Hess or Gary Voss or Ben Houston or Carole Bionda or virtually anyone who has been ABC’s national President. They will tell you they believe this Association is a movement, a pressure for free enterprise, a remarkable philosophically sound organization that is working to protect contractors from an erosion of their right to do business. Ask any of the ABC staff members who have been around for any length of time. They will all make some reference to philosophy. For those of you who understand what this is about, or who come to understand… this will be an avocation and perhaps a career. For those of you who treat this like a job, it is likely you will be in another job in a few years.

Gary Hess fought a battle. Ted Kennedy, the one from Alabama, was picketed when he played golf. He was followed, his family was intimidated, he was threatened. Different in scope, but no less important than all of the battles for freedom. More than two hundred years ago men and women died to gain for the U.S. our right to be free. And in many of the wars since, those same freedoms were secured. It is smaller in scope, but no less important, this movement called ABC. This is what ABC is, and that’s what ABC is about.