The first magazine article I ever wrote was in 1985 when I went to work at the American Concrete Institute as the engineering editor on Concrete International. My new boss sent me to Baton Rouge to interview a contractor who was doing brick stamped patterns with integrally colored concrete. I suspect the thinking was that since it was sort of an inconsequential topic, I couldn't do too much damage.
I wrote the article with great enthusiasm for the contractor, the process, and the suppliers. Today, unfortunately, those companies I thought so highly of are long gone, as are many others that were involved in what was then called “architectural concrete.” Some were poorly managed; others took a narrow view and tried to keep the decorative industry as the birthright of a small fraternity of experts sworn to not divulge their secrets to the uninitiated. But something this exciting couldn't be contained forever, and word leaked out, leading to today's explosion of decorative products, techniques, and contractors. Our upcoming list of the top 100 concrete contractors in America will note that decorative revenue for these larger contractors rose from $30.7 million in 2000 to $102.4 million in 2004—and these are not even the small contractors who are doing the bulk of the decorative work. I'm quite sure the growth curve has not yet leveled off.
To foster and support this decorative concrete revolution, the magazine you are holding in your hand is Concrete Construction's first annual special decorative concrete issue. Although we cover decorative concrete every month, and have been writing about it since our founding 50 years ago, our hope is that this special issue will provide one more tool towards raising the bar for professionalism in this dynamic, but frankly immature, industry. This decorative concrete business that is so innovative and creative needs to grow up. Our goal is to provide a resource for expanding and improving the craft and the business of decorative concrete. While the craft side of decorative concrete has dominated the story, including at CC's Artistry in Concrete demonstrations at the World of Concrete, the business side is at least as important. This dynamic industry needs to look toward things like certification, standards, quality control, and good business sense. Those who learn that lesson will thrive, unlike the little decorative company I wrote about 20 years ago.