Bill Palmer
Bill Palmer
I've been accused of starting every editorial by mentioning which industry meeting I'm just returning home from. Indeed, this month I'm on my way home from the American Society of Concrete Contractors' meeting—which was energizing and it's most successful yet. Sometimes it does seems like I'm always on my way to or from some industry meeting; some people bemoan this state of affairs and wonder why we can't get these groups to work together. My wife and daughter would certainly agree that there are way too many meetings that I run around the country attending.

But I don't see this profusion of groups as a negative thing for the concrete industry. Far from it. We have a diverse industry that is healthy and thriving and can support all of these niches with a specific group. Each of these groups has its own specific audience and spends the majority of its time representing those interests, but all of the groups in the concrete industry also work with one another, usually quite harmoniously. I sometimes imagine all of these groups as different sized intersecting circles that overlap in various ways and move over time to interact with others in greater or smaller amounts.

You could take this entire analogy to an extreme and note that there are even smaller circles within the circles. Take ASCC, which has within its big circle a smaller circle for decorative contractors and suppliers, and another for manufacturers. But all are working towards a common goal: to improve the quality and quantity of concrete construction. Within ASCC there are big contractors and small, New York contractors and California contractors, tilt-up contractors and poured basement specialists. That is some measure of diversity, although I continue to be concerned at our lack of success in attracting minority contractors, especially Hispanics who represent a growing segment of the concrete construction industry. Although the ASCC meeting in Milwaukee was fantastic and drew the largest audience ever (almost 350), I don't think there was a single Hispanic or black or Asian person to be seen.

We need to do a better job at this. Although Hispanics may be a small percentage of concrete contractor owners, that is bound to change. With so many Hispanics moving up through the ranks, it's only a matter of time before Hispanic-owned companies begin emerging—indeed it is happening already—Hanley Wood's fledgling magazine El Nuevo Constructor, aimed at Hispanic contractors, is very successful and the Hispanic Contractors Association is thriving. ASCC and ACI and the many other industry groups need to proactively reach out, not just blithely wait to see if minority members show up.