Agenda: Promotion, Advocacy And Activism

Product promotion and industry advocacy in a year of federal surface transportation reauthorization both aims bolstered by enhanced membership activity

Tom Kuennen

Product promotion and industry advocacy in a year of federal surface transportation reauthorization Û both aims bolstered by enhanced membership activity Û rank among top-priority leadership themes this year for National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s new chairman. I’m going to focus on three primary goals, says 2009 NRMCA Chairman Henry Batten, who is executive vice president and CFO of Concrete Supply Co. in Charlotte, N.C. The first is promotion, the second advocacy, and the third will be active membership.

Advocacy is crucial, Batten tells Concrete Products, because ready mixed concrete has fallen behind other competitive materials in that arena. In our advocacy efforts, we have taken a back seat to a number of industries, and we need to step that up, he asserts. We constitute a substantial portion of manufacturing and construction’s employment base, and I want to make sure that our message is heard from the employee in the shop to the CEO at the top.


Since federal surface transportation reauthorization legislation is due Sept. 30, upon expiration of the existing SAFETEA-LU, the chairman’s emphasis comes during a critical year. Timely and favorable reauthorization is of paramount interest to the ready mixed industry, especially in an era of reduced state and local budgets.

I’m convinced that the lack of recognition of our highway infrastructure’s importance hurts the national economic engine in terms of global competitiveness, as well as regional competitiveness in a world economy, says Batten. Our system has been dealt a severe blow over the last 20 years, due to a failure of our political leadership to recognize what a well thought out, purposeful strategy will do for our economy.

Also hobbling efforts, he contends, is a national press that chooses either not to report on infrastructure funding issues, or if it does, characterizes any initiative as a pork barrel spending frenzy. That shows the ignorance of today’s press, Batten observes. In earlier periods, the press, quite frankly, served a useful purpose in identifying activities that were beneficial Û or not. But recently, the press has been as guilty as any politician in politicizing a particular issue. Overwhelming evidence indicates that infrastructure investment improves the economic ÎecosystemÌ of a country or region. To be sure, there is some pork barrel earmarking, but [critics] have been missing the point of federal investment in infrastructure improvements.


Addressing that dilemma, NRMCA named Tom Carter senior vice president of government affairs in late 2008. Extensive trade association and construction industry experience that Carter brings to his role includes, most recently, a term as managing director – Retail Sustainability for the American Chemistry Council, plus 11 years at the Portland Cement Association, where he served as staff vice president of Environment, Health and Safety.

NRMCA also partners in advocacy efforts with other stakeholding organizations as part of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), an umbrella group of 27 national associations and labor unions with a direct market interest in federal transportation programs. During TCC’s annual D.C. Fly-In, May 18-20, House and Senate member visits will be combined with insiders’ overviews of reauthorization themes.

The Fly-In dovetails with another of the chairman’s focal points for 2009 Û member activism. I hope NRMCA and our members can accomplish significant and substantive discussions with members of Congress and their staffs, Henry Batten says. They make the benefits more tangible by putting a human face on the e-mails and letters that come in, he notes. More than just hiring lobbyists, I want people with boots on the ground, so to speak, to explain the impact of the legislation on their communities. Each of us has to take responsibility: you can’t abdicate that function to a paid lobbyist or an NRMCA staff member.

We also encourage our producer members to host members of Congress at their plants, when Congress is not in session. It’s a real eye-opener for them to see concrete being made, observe advanced production processes, and meet the workers and their families, and by implication, their extended families and friends.

But, advocacy involves more than lobbying for funding, Batten emphasizes. Our issues include hours-of-work restrictions and building codes, he explains. If concrete had been specified for homes in high-hurricane risk areas, there would not be near the challenging conditions in the Katrina aftermath as we saw on the Gulf Coast.

Also under NRMCA scrutiny is the Employee Free Choice Act legislation poised to resurface in Congress this year. Nicknamed Card Check, it would facilitate union organizing by eliminating secret ballot voting on representation campaigns. We speak to our Congressmen about Card Check, Batten tells Concrete Products. That’s probably the single most useless piece of legislation that has come out of Congress in years. It’s ridiculous to subscribe to the principle that it is acceptable to vote privately for a member of Congress, but not acceptable to vote privately as to whether or not you want to join a union.


As ready mixed concrete is environmentally friendly and safe, we offer solutions to America’s environmental challenges, Batten affirms. Consequently, NRMCA is educating the marketplace by providing evidence that ready mixed is the best building material for environmentally sustainable construction. To further its paramount aim of demonstrating that ready mixed concrete is a sustainable or ÎgreenÌ material, NRMCA has been diligent in promoting acceptance of pervious concrete.

Used for paving applications, especially parking lots, pervious concrete allows water to pass through the hardscape, thereby minimizing runoff and recharging groundwater.

After more than a year of laboratory research, NRMCA engineers have developed a proportioning software program for pervious mixes (note page 13), as proportioning procedures for pervious concrete differ from conventional formulas. The goal in developing pervious concrete mixes is to obtain a design void content that will allow percolation of water through the installation. Thus, the challenge in pervious mix proportioning is to achieve design void contents, as well as an optimum paste consistency that is neither too dry nor too wet.

A special feature of the software program is that mixes can be designed for a void content close to that measured by the newly standardized ASTM C1688 Standard Test Method for Density and Void Content of Pervious Concrete. In addition to proportioning software, the CD includes two documents: (1) a guideline detailing pervious concrete mixture proportioning methodology, and (2) a research report that provides experimental validation of the mixture proportioning methodology based on testing conducted at the NRMCA Research Laboratory.


NRMCA’s primary initiatives also include a Green Rooftop program and an effort to educate association members and the industry about the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] rating system, i.e., how ready mixed concrete can help architects attain coveted LEED certification for the structures they design. Currently used in the building industry to evaluate the degree of ÎgreenÌ design a structure or development incorporates, the LEED Green Building program comprises a voluntary, third-party rating system that offers credits for satisfying specified green building criteria. Projects are evaluated within six environmental categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Air Quality, and Innovation & Design.

While concrete provides the significant green benefits of lifetime energy efficiency and reduction in heat island effect, Henry Batten asserts, that’s not the whole story. Ready mixed concrete is a sustainable product [also] in its ability to reuse reclaimed materials, he explains. Even the manufacture of it is an energy-efficient process.


Another cornerstone of NRMCA’s ÎgreenÌ positioning is the Green-Star program for producers successfully implementing environmental management systems (EMS). In January, NRMCA awarded California member Bode Concrete, LLC, Green-Star certification Û a Golden State first. Transit Mix Concrete & Materials raised the first Green-Star flag in July 2008, attaining certification for its Seven Points, Texas, plant outside of Dallas.

Recognizing achievement in the operation of environmentally sustainable ready mixed production facilities, the Green-Star program offers plant-specific certification based on EMS and a model of continual improvement. It was created in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Highways Partnership. NRMCA notes that potential benefits of certification for a plant include:

  • Favored status Û Often customers prefer doing business with organizations that are known to be protective of the environment.
  • Increased profits Û Savings through pollution-prevention and waste-reduction efforts.
  • Improved efficiency Û Sound, consistent environmental management methods also should improve profits.
  • Community goodwill Û An organization’s stand on environmental policy and action may be the most important factor in achieving and maintaining community goodwill.
  • Reduction of liability and risk Û Environmental problems are less likely to arise if an organization implements a proactive EMS that documents results and promotes continual improvement.

Partnering for Progress

Partnering with other associations remains a priority for NRMCA, Henry Batten tells Concrete Products. In May, the association will cosponsor the fourth annual Concrete Technology Forum: Focus on Performance Prediction, May 13-15 in Cincinnati. The two-day symposium and product expo will assemble researchers and practitioners to discuss latest advances, technical knowledge, continuing research, tools and specifications that involve test methods and modeling to predict concrete performance and concrete structures’ service life. For the event, NRMCA joins forces with cosponsors American Coal Ash Association, American Concrete Institute, American Society of Concrete Contractors, Ohio Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Portland Cement Association, and Silica Fume Association, as well as private-sector sponsors.

Targeted attendees include researchers, engineers, contractors, concrete producers, public works officials, material suppliers, and concrete professionals seeking latest developments in testing and modeling for hardened concrete properties, concrete applications, properties of plastic concrete, and evaluation of concrete’s performance. More information is available at


Further, NRMCA will optimize its 2009 outreach by serving as a resource for the many state ready-mixed concrete associations nationwide. In a fundamental way, we have changed the underlying premise on which we interact with the state associations, Batten reports. In effect, we have become a resource for the state associations. We don’t want to be a de facto manager; we just want to provide the materials and depth that state association members need to get their job done.

They are the soldiers in the field, executing their business plans and strategies, Batten observes. We want NRMCA to help them be more successful and leverage the best practices or activities occurring across the nation. That way, they won’t have to reinvent the basic material and learning concepts, because we’re able to transfer that knowledge to them as expeditiously as needed. A state affiliate director manages the program, he adds, and serves as the primary conduit for the state affiliates.


Charlotte, N.C.-based Concrete Supply Co. claims the title of the region’s leading concrete supplier since 1958, serving a 100-mile-radius market via 18 operations. The company produces quality concrete to exact specifications, including high psi, and special colored mixes. Ready mixed was supplied by the producer for most of Charlotte’s tall-building skyline, as well as major commercial and manufacturing facilities, plus upscale residential developments. Central dispatching ensures that orders are delivered on time.

Concrete Supply is the only company to win a second Carolinas AGC Pinnacle Award as best supplier. More than professionals, its employees are part owners; and, additional payoffs in safety and customer courtesy benefit all parties to a project.

Among Concrete Supply’s memorable achievements are gold-colored, poured-in-place walls for the Mint Museum of Art and 12,000-psi load-bearing columns for the 60-story Bank of America tower. Ensuring the success of such projects, the producer notes, is the region’s largest quality-control staff, comprising five ACI-certified, Level 1 field test technicians and a lab manager with more than a decade of experience. An on-site technician does testing on major jobs, even if the customer doesn’t require it.

Concrete Supply Co. is located at 3823 Raleigh St., Charlotte, NC 28206, tel.: 704/372-2930; fax: 704/334-8650; web site:


Mendota Heights, Minn. Since 1930, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association has been a leading industry advocate inside the Capitol Beltway. NRMCA views its mission as providing exceptional value for members, serving the ready mixed concrete industry through leadership, promotion, education and partnering efforts to ensure that ready mixed is the building material of choice.

The association represents ready mixed concrete producers and allied businesses. Now approaching its eighth decade of service, NRMCA has helped advance the ready mixed concrete industry by tracking and influencing Washington’s impact, developing and implementing concepts for product enhancement and marketing, plus educating employees.

NRMCA partners with state associations on issues such as promotion and regulatory concerns, extending the range of their influence to a national level. In addition to lobbying and regulatory programs, as well as educational, training, and promotional initiatives, the association provides research, engineering, safety, environmental, and technological resources to enhance the industry’s profitability and professionalism.

NRMCA’s Engineering Division staff promotes ready mixed concrete’s interests through participation on specifying and standard-setting committees. Further, members and professional staff collaborate on several association committees, i.e., Government Affairs, Operations, Environment and Safety, Education, Membership, Promotion, Business Administration, Research, Engineering and Standards, Information Technology, Vision Strategic Planning, Audit and Finance, and Construction Industry Alliances.

Robert Garbini is NRMCA president. The association is located at 900 Spring St., Silver Spring, MD 20910; tel.: 301/587-1400 or 888/84NRMCA; fax: 301/585-4219; web site:


Executive Vice President
Concrete Supply Co.
Charlotte, N.C.


Executive Vice President, Commercial
Cemex USA
Houston, Texas


Senior Vice President, Operations
Cemstone Products Co.