The Panelists for CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION's 2008 Industry Roundtable

Paul Albanelli Albanelli Cement Contractors Inc., Livonia, Mich.
Clark Branum L.M. Scofield Co., Douglasville, Ga.
Nathan Somero S&S Concrete Floors, New Ipswich, N.H.
John Ylinen Sundt Construction Inc., Tempe, Ariz.
Chris Plue Webcor Concrete, San Mateo, Calif.
Jay Allen Allen Engineering, Paragould, Ark.
Michael Riggs Progressive Concrete Works, Phoenix
Joe Nasvik Senior Editor, CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION, Chicago
Tim Gregorski Editor in Chief, CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION, Chicago

CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION recently held our Annual Industry Roundtable Discussion prior to the opening of the American Society of Concrete Contractor's (ASCC) Annual Conference, Sept. 11-14 in San Antonio. Despite the impending threat of Hurricane Ike, a group of industry leaders gathered to examine a host of issues facing the concrete industry today, including surviving in today's economy, diversification, crew productivity, and more. Below is Part II of our roundtable discussion. Also read Part I of this discussion.

Tim Gregorski: Is there a particular presidential candidate that may do better in terms of turning the economy, as well as the residential housing market around?
Nathan Somero: I think the nation is desperate for an anti-politician. So, anyone that appears to be a break from the past is very popular. You asked about residential, I think that most of us aren't planning on residential coming back anytime soon. So there is more emphasis on other sectors within the industry, such as decorative concrete. I think we would all be pleasantly surprised if residential came back in 2009.

Clark Branum: I think residential is slowly going to trickle back in 2009. It's interesting because I hear that it's a very similar economy and climate in Europe. The international residential market is experiencing similar things we are; it's not just isolated to the U.S. economy. I know we have taken steps to cut back, not so much salaries, but expenses in general. We are taking some cautious steps forward to make sure we minimize our overhead during this down climate because there is nothing we can really do to stimulate a down market. We have to be cautious over the next six to eight months to take the steps not to keep costs down in the company that might now otherwise be recoverable.

Gregorski: Have any of you been involved in tilt-up projects lately?

Paul Albanelli: We just did our first tilt-up project this summer in Michigan, which has been a market dominated by masonry construction because of our mass supply of blocklayers and bricklayers. So tilt-up buildings in our region were rare. With the help of Clay Fischer and Woodland Construction, our project went very well. This speaks volumes for the benefits of belonging to an organization such as ASCC, because if we were out there without any assistance from Clay, we'd probably still be trying to figure out how to lay out all the panels on the slab.

Joe Nasvik: Do you have a strong precast industry?

Albanelli: Precast is much stronger than tilt-up, but by far masonry block construction dominates our area.

Branum: In our marketplace, 90+ of business is tilt-up. Most new buildings in the industrial parks are tilt-up. There is still tilt-up construction going on because Boeing recently built a very large facility, and there are a lot of them in that area. I still see quite a bit of tilt-up construction in California, Southern California, and other places I travel.

Gregorski: Are any of you having trouble securing financing for your projects?

Somero: Yes, we've lost seven projects this year due to financing being pulled. Significantly sized projects and they really put a hurt in our sales volume.

Nasvik: As contractors or manufacturers, are you having trouble getting cash flow loans?

Somero: Any type of borrowing is extremely difficult right now.

Branum: My last company had major issues with securing cash flow loans and that's why they ended up selling. They just couldn't raise the capital on their own. They couldn't come up with it, and the banks wouldn't lend it to them.