MBA: The Story About the Original Charter


By Jennifer Landau

On January 16, 2015, the Master Builders' Association of Western Pennsylvania (MBA) hosted their Annual General Contractor Membership Business Meeting. During the meeting, a very special presentation was made by Tom Landau, CEO of Landau Building Company and Past President of the MBA. While cleaning his attic a week before the Business Meeting, Mr. Landau found the MBA's original Association of General Contractors of America (AGC) charter certificate from 1922. He presented the certificate at the meeting in order to return it to its original owners, the MBA.

The MBA was established in 1886, when a group of contractors organized to fulfill a need for unified representation during labor negotiations. At that time, the Pittsburgh-based construction companies recognized the value of promoting the common interests of the industry and the need to establish guidelines for quality and professionalism.

The AGC was established in 1918, with assistance from Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, who saw the need for a national cooperative effort on the construction industry. Today the AGC consists of over 25,000 construction affiliated companies, organized into nearly 100 chapters throughout the 50 states and Puerto Rico.

In 1922, the MBA was recognized as one of the founding chapters of the AGC. This begs the question, why was the charter certificate found nearly a century later in the attic of Mr. Landau? Perhaps the following may explain: In the 1920's, Jacob Landau, Tom Landau's great-grandfather, was on the MBA Board of Directors. At that time there was a lot of push back from the MBA members to disassociate itself from a national entity and drop all AGC ties. A large majority from the membership claimed to not see any local value in paying dues to a national organization, but Jacob Landau led a group of strong advocates who believed the MBA needed representation in our nation's capital. The aforementioned story, which is supported in the MBA meeting minutes, is the best explanation of how this important MBA document ended up in Tom Landau's attic.

Landau Building Company has a storied tradition in the Western Pennsylvania commercial construction industry. Landau Building Company was founded in 1890 and many believe them to be the oldest contractor still in operation. The company has a long history with the MBA. Not only was Jacob Landau involved with the MBA in the 1920's, Jacob's son Calvin Landau was elected President of the Association in 1939. Cal "Buck" Landau was on the Board of Directors from the 1950's through the 1960's and Thomas J. Landau was MBA President from 1965-1967. Tom Landau, he who discovered the prized AGC treasure in his home, currently serves on the Board of Directors and has since 2001. Tom was also the Board of Directors President from 2010-2012.

In the same discovery, Tom Landau found a picture from the very first AGC national convention, with all attendees and their spouses on the White House lawn. This picture featured President Calvin Coolidge standing front and center. According to the MBA meeting minutes, Jacob Landau attended the first AGC convention and reported back to the MBA that it was a great event. While at the first AGC convention, he attended a seminar devoted to the need to repeal the multiple prime delivery system law, which was in the books in each state across the country. The mention of this seminar held almost a hundred years ago is quite ironic. Not only that it was mentioned in Pennsylvania but considering the MBA participated in a seminar on this exact topic the day before the MBA Annual Membership Meeting in 2015!