Lying on my cot in the dimly lit Charlotte Airport at 1:00 a.m., babies crying, tired and frustrated couples bickering, I wondered whether the Concrete Executive Leadership Forum (CELF) was worth this return trip, which started Saturday afternoon and didn’t end until Monday morning. Focusing on the people I’d met and the discussions we’d had about the business of concrete construction over the past three days, and ignoring the cancelled flights and sold-out hotels, I decided it was probably worth it, although doubts did haunt my short dreams during that long fitful night.

Still, the forum itself, sponsored by ASCC and CC, was as inspiring as usual. Economist Anirban Basu once again reviewed the whirlwind construction economy with a cautiously optimistic projection for the next few years—although he reminded contractors that construction is still a cyclic business and by 2018 or 2019 we could be back on the descending side of the curve. Denise Haaser, Director of Human Resources for Baker Concrete Construction, encouraged executives to be proactive about recruitment and retention of workers. Compensation needs to be fair, she says, but appreciating your people and providing them with opportunities for growth is just as important.

But, as usual at the CELF, the networking both in the informal roundtables and at the social events was the highlight for me. There is no better venue in our industry for learning about what’s really going on. Think about attending next year’s CELF in San Diego, July 14 to 17—just pray for trauma-free travel!