January 2021 – by Mike Picco
This month we had the opportunity to Zoom with Mike Picco, founder of PICCO Engineering—and President of the Natural Stone Institute (NSI) for 2021. Interviewed by Project Manager Analisa Fraga (a fellow NSI “Women in Stone” member and participant in the mentorship program), Mike shares his long history and what he’s enjoyed about being a member of the Natural Stone Institute.
Caption: NSI President, Mike Picco, checking out the Building Stone Materials Kit
The Natural Stone Institute is a trade association representing every aspect of the natural stone industry. It serves more than 2,000+ members in 55 countries, offering them a wide array of technical and training resources, professional development, regulatory advocacy, and networking events. Two prominent publications—Dimension Stone Design Manual and Building Stone Magazine—raise awareness in both the industry and the design communities for the promotion and best use of natural stone.
The following is a transcript of the interview, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Caption: Mike Picco, up close and personal with the sandstone walls at Antelope Canyon, AZ
AF: Where were you first introduced to stone? MP: I've been in the stone industry pretty much all of my adult life. I graduated from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Engineering, and was working as a structural engineer for a precast company; but, we also serviced stone contractors with engineering and shop drawings. I was hired by one of the larger stone contractors to head up their in-house drafting, facades and engineering department. This is where I really gained very valuable experience being out in the field working with the installers and fabricators. I really learned a lot from the masons on site, and since then, I have been engaged with stone in some aspect or another, and love the industry.
AF: When did you first join the NSI? What made you decide to join?
MP: I joined the association in the early to mid-1990’s. I realized very early on that membership was the way to connect with industry leaders at large, while learning and collaborating with colleagues to grow its effectiveness. My positive interactions over the years motivated me to contribute as a member in greater capacity. During the last decade, I've stepped up and served on the Board of Directors–Zone 8 Canada, Assistant Secretary–and then Secretary of the Executive Committee, Vice President, and finally—now as President.
“As President, my goal will be to fill the shoes of many outstanding past Presidents that have led the NSI to becoming the global leading authority in natural stone. I am committed to representing our industry in a professional manner, to ensure we continue to grow our presence, and educate on the benefits of natural stone within our industry and beyond to the design community.”
AF: How has the NSI benefited PICCO Engineering? MP: Ever since I became a member of the NSI (previously MIA), I've been able to grow the network of industry colleagues and clients for PICCO. NSI’s vast collection of industry data, including their resource library, instructional webinars and safety standards have served as a great educational tool for both its members and our employees. As a firm, we also take advantage of utilizing the NSI’s Testing Lab—an indispensable resource whenever we are working with new stone materials or on projects requiring any testing.
Caption: Mike Picco with colleagues at The Middle East Stone Show, Dubai
AF: What is your most memorable NSI moment? MP: Being a member has benefited my career in so many ways, it’s difficult to choose just one. Getting involved with the NSI, engaging with committees and the Board has allowed me stay current with what the industry is doing. I have met so many great people that are passionate about natural stone and the inherent beauty in it. I think my most memorable experience is making lifelong friends through sharing my experiences and having the opportunity to socialize at industry events. That’s the beauty of an organization with longevity and rich history—it offers a variety of conventions, trade shows, and opportunity to travel overseas. We've had so much fun attending Coverings in Orlando, visiting Verona for MARMOMAC (seeing all the new technologies and innovative ways to use natural stone), The International Surface Event (TISE) in Vegas…and after a busy week at STONEX Canada, we headed over to Dubai for the Middle East Stone and Marble Show, as part of a round table and two seminars. It was a great event. We had a chance to meet great people and see some really interesting work. Can’t wait to start doing that again!
AF: Lastly, why should someone consider becoming a member? What would you like them to know?
MP: Anyone with a natural interest or curiosity about stone—I invite you to get involved. Membership is your connection to the natural stone market. Our members represent the entire supply chain—from the quarries that import, source and produce stone, to those who manufacture or fabricate stone panels, to the installer who anchors it to the building, or the technicians who restore its beauty and integrity. I’ve learned from each and every one of them, which has only made my own expertise that much more valuable. That’s something pretty amazing to be part of.
Still can't decide?
The more you get involved by attending events, joining committees, and taking advantage of all the resources available, the more meaningful your membership will become.
Supporting the NSI with your membership ensures continued growth and development of more programs and benefits for all members. A special "Individual” membership category is available exclusively for AIA and ASLA architects who utilize natural stone in their projects.
It’s the collective advocacy and promotion for what we do in the stone sector (and AEC community) that ultimately creates this positive change and growing opportunity. Despite our unique business needs, I think we can all appreciate that.
Becoming a member can only help expand your knowledge as you grow in your own careers; and hopefully using your experience one day to mentor the next generation of architects, designers, and engineers about natural stone. Still thinking of becoming a member? Think no more! Just join…you won't regret it!
To continue the conversation, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
President at PICCO Engineering
Mike is the driving force behind PICCO's continued success, with more than 35 years experience in stone consulting and structural engineering. Mike remains active in project sponsorship and is a much sought-after speaker and subject-matter expert on stone cladding and anchoring systems.
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