A Strong Hand


Convening last month in San Diego, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association officers reflected on a productive 2015 and a challenging 2016. Last year was the first since 2008 when the industry eclipsed the critical 1-yd. per capita output watermark, a backdrop for NRMCA-led measures easing mixer fleet operators’ regulatory burdens; assisting producers in driver recruitment; and, elevating cast-in-place concrete in the green building era.

Momentum from 2015 business indicators and NRMCA deliverables will springboard a multi-year promotion plan to address one of the industry’s biggest challenges: Recapturing low- to mid-rise building, or LMR, market share, which was lost during the past decade amid well funded wood industry promotion. An association analysis finds concrete’s LMR share has dropped 10-12 points, to below 25 percent. In annual ready mixed output terms, that amounts to 20 million–30 million yd. Projections from construction management consultant FMI, plus demographic trends favoring multi-unit dwellings in urban and suburban areas, suggest that LMR buildings—especially in the four- to seven-story range—will be well represented in commercial and income-type property developments over the next two decades.

On behalf of ready mixed concrete producer and cast-in-place method stakeholders, NRMCA staff and officers are responding decisively. “My number one goal over the next year is implementing the program promoting concrete in the low- to mid-rise building segment. It will be a huge focus for NRMCA and the industry,” 2016 Chairman Ted Chandler tells Concrete Products. “Coming out of the recession, we realized we had lost share to the wood industry. The NRMCA board has taken decisive action with a dues increase and financial plan to support the LMR program.”

As president of Burlington, N.C.-based Chandler Concrete Co., Inc. he is equal to an urgent agenda, bringing three decades of experience in a family-run, ready mixed concrete business, and becoming the third son to join his father in NRMCA chairman ranks. Chandler Concrete Chairman Tom Chandler took the helm in 1999, following Thomas Baird Jr. (1972) and Thomas Baird III (1996) of Concrete Companies of Springfield (Mo.); and Norman J. Fredericks (1951) and Norman Fredericks Jr. (1990) of Koenig Fuel & Supply, Detroit.

Ted Chandler leads the association as members continue logging volume gains. “The construction economy is continuing to improve, and the year started out right with much of the country having a mild winter, allowing for a longer season,” Chandler affirms. “I believe the economy will grow, along with demand for ready mixed concrete. We will be in a better position to accomplish the NRMCA work plan with business up.”


Chandler was elected chairman during the 2016 NRMCA Members’ Meeting. In an overview for his term, he set the stage for the following day’s building promotion program launch. NRMCA President Robert Garbini and 2015 Chairman Allen Hamblen (CalPortland Co.) did the honors, unveiling for the board of directors a jumbo-sized “Build With Strength” logo to anchor a campaign founded on this mission:

Educate the building and design communities and policymakers on the benefits of ready mixed concrete, and encourage its use as the building material of choice for low- to mid-rise structures. No other material can replicate concrete’s advantages in terms of strength, durability, safety and ease of use.

They presented the campaign as an unprecedented communications strategy, centered on www.buildwithstrength.com site, plus products and initiatives over the next three years: video content; multi-city media tour; rapid response capabilities; advertising; social media properties; and, stakeholder engagement opportunities.

Officials from Washington, D.C.-based DCC Public Affairs, which NRMCA has retained to assist in campaign execution and muster participation from members and allied groups or individuals, explained to directors how “Build With Strength” aims to a) drive industry and project decision makers to resources such as webinars and live seminars for technical support and design assistance; and, b) foster an advocacy network that will support concrete’s position in building codes, standards and rating systems at state and local levels.

“Members have taken a bold stand and invested in NRMCA because one company alone cannot begin to compete with the money and manpower the softwood industry has committed to its promotion effort,” said Chandler. “Only through joint action and a united voice can the ready mixed concrete industry succeed. This is our number one priority and NRMCA leadership will keep the industry informed of all of our challenges and successes.”

With a good geographical representation of producers at the board meeting, he and fellow NRMCA Executive Committee members asked State Affiliate representatives to consider these measures:

  • Pass a board resolution supporting “Build With Strength.”
  • Understand change: Developers are using wood frames to build low- to mid-rise buildings.
  • Be entrepreneurial; promote concrete.
  • Use industry communication messages and resources.
  • Assist in changing local building codes.

The campaign will incorporate the Design Assistance Program model that NRMCA national resource directors, working with State Affiliates or individual producer members, have deployed in concrete parking lot and street promotion. A DAP for buildings will afford architectural, engineering and construction professionals, plus their clients, preliminary design assistance, cost estimates and operating cost benefits surrounding an LMR project’s concrete options—conventional reinforced, post-tensioned flat plate, insulating concrete form, or other cast-in-place structural and enclosure methods.

NRMCA has realigned its Promotion/National Resource Directors Division under the Local Paving Department, while grouping buildings market staff under the newly designated Structure Promotion and Sustainability Department. The latter will offer free structural and architectural design assistance, cost estimating, codes, energy analysis, and LEED optimization for cast-in-place candidate projects. LMR promotion is concurrent with the addition of four senior directors around three areas—Building Innovations; Sustainability Initiatives; State and Local Government Affairs—to Structure Promotion and Sustainability staff.


A principal “Build With Strength” component draws from NRMCA’s long history of representing cast-in-place concrete structures and methods in the building code arena and, more recently, positioning ready mixed concrete among green-building practitioners.

“We make a difference fighting for fair codes and standards,” notes Chandler. “After three years of advocacy by NRMCA and key stakeholder groups, the U.S. Green Building Council adopted LEED pilot credits in late 2015 that provide project teams incentives to plan, design and build for resilience. Competing construction materials are also attempting to influence codes and standards in ways that may be detrimental to the concrete industry.

“It is vital we remain strong and united in our codes advocacy. We continue to lobby around resiliency as a measure of a building, structure or facility being returned to service after exposure to a major event or natural disaster. We are well positioned to lobby for policy factoring construction resiliency. Lawmakers are realizing we can’t continue to rebuild with the same methods after disasters. Our message has to be the importance of safety for communities and regions prone to major events.”

Chandler cites a measure NRMCA Government Affairs and Promotion & Sustainability staff are jointly pursuing to influence national and state government design and construction guidelines: Adoption of resiliency provisions in federal agency documents and laws informing building, non-building and transportation projects partly or fully funded through Washington, D.C.

The push for resiliency language and LEED pilot credits follows 2014-15 efforts to advance individual producer and industry-wide environmental product declarations (EPD) for concrete mixes. When measured on prospective points or benchmarks, the documents have raised ready mixed concrete above all other materials for certification-candidate projects whose principals incentivize processing or manufacturing “transparency” measures.

Applying complicated but highly credible models from the Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NRMCA has also succeeded in advocating for whole building life cycle assessment to demonstrate a project’s lower environmental impact compared to reference-building data. The organizations behind the three major green building standards—LEED, Green Globes, and International Green Construction Code—have adopted provisions that give credit to design teams using such assessments.


“Build With Strength” will leverage codes & standards and promotion competencies, and extend to state and local level communications strategies that the Government Affairs Committee and staff have proved in D.C.

“We had some good legislative and regulatory victories in 2015,” Chandler tells Concrete Products. “We need to continue to have a strong voice in Washington and promote our products and industry. I encourage members to be active in Washington and talk to their representatives about issues that are important to them and the industry.”

Topping the past year’s NRMCA Government Affairs roster, he notes, is much needed relief from Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) regulations codified in the five-year, federal highway funding program—Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act—President Obama signed in December. It provides ready mixed producers permanent exemption from the HOS 30-minute break rule; creates an industry-specific logbook exemption whereby the Code of Federal Regulations 12-hour on-duty logging threshold matches the FMCSA’s 14-hour driving window; and, increases from 50 to 75 air-miles the radius for construction materials delivery in order to satisfy the HOS rules’ 24-hour restart.

On an annual basis, the exemptions stand to save the ready mixed concrete industry up to $170 million and individual producers up to $3,600 per driver. “This is a very tangible benefit for members and prospective members,” Chandler contends. “It shows how NRMCA efforts directly affect a producer’s bottom line.”

FMCSA rule tempering coincides with producers across the country reporting staffing challenges, just as ready mixed concrete demand climbs. “The regulatory relief will help us in recruiting. Drivers understand the seasonality of concrete work in most markets, and know they will be able to work longer hours,” Chandler observes. “These days we don’t have as many qualified people to bring into driver ranks.”

HOS relief dovetails the Driver Recruiting and Retention Survey, perhaps the most ambitious human resources-rooted project NRMCA has delivered since the 2006 launch of the National Mixer Driver Championship—now the ConcreteWorks fall conference centerpiece. Shortly after the 2015 ConcreteWorks, NRMCA released results of the 21-question survey. The first comprehensive, ready mixed concrete-specific study of commercial drivers license holders, it provides perspectives from respondents managing more than 25 percent of the industry’s driver pool—nearly 20,000 delivery professionals.

Among key findings: average age in mixer driver pool, 44.7 years, versus commercial truck drivers’ 46.5 years; mixer drivers’ national tenure rate, 10 years, with a median of nine years and annual 15 percent turnover rate; national mixer driver vacancy rate, 9 percent as of December 2014, with an estimated 2014 average hiring of 39.8 mixer drivers per company and median of 11.5 mixer drivers per company. Respondents noted their biggest challenge was finding qualified, commercially licensed drivers with ready mixed concrete industry experience. Seventy five percent peg employee referral as their most successful recruitment method.

NRMCA will release by mid-year marketing and advertising resources to assist producers’ driver recruiting and retention programs. The survey and support materials are partly funded by a Ready Mixed Concrete Research and Education Foundation grant.


Government affairs, codes & standards and promotion gains NRMCA realized the past year would have been difficult had members retreated during the industry’s worst downturn since the Great Depression. “Looking back on the years of recession, NRMCA did not cut programs. Instead, we continued to invest and are in a better position to capitalize as the economy improves,” Chandler assured 2016 convention attendees. “We used association reserves to continue programs during the recession; now that business is returning to more normal levels, we will be able to improve reserves.”

He candidly offered a challenge that goes hand in hand with NRMCA finances: “We represent more than 50 percent of ready mixed concrete shipped, but have about 30 percent of industry producers as members. It is vitally important to bring in new members. They benefit from our building and paving promotion, and we need them in this fight for low- to mid-rise building market share.

“Every new producer adds to our understanding of what the industry needs to succeed, and brings a fresh prospective to the table. To truly represent the industry it is important that we give voice to all participants, large or small, East or West coast, family owned or publicly traded, vertically integrated or not. As leaders of this association, we have a responsibility to hear what members have to say and make sure the association reflects their values. NRMCA makes a difference for members every day. With their support, we can widen its scope, take on new challenges and lead to success.”

Strength i

After Robert Garbini’s ceremonial gesture, the NRMCA Executive Committee mustered behind the campaign icon (from left): Secretary/Treasurer Rodney Grogan (MMC Materials); 2014, 2015 and 2016 Chairmen Ric Suzio (L. Suzio Concrete), Allen Hamblen (CalPortland) and Ted Chandler (Chandler Concrete); and, Vice Chairman Scott Parson (Staker Parson).
Strength ii


Chandler Concrete Co., Inc.

Chandler iii

national ready mixed concrete association
Ted Chandler Scott Parson Allen Hamblen
President President President & CEO
Chandler Concrete Co., Inc. CalPortland Co.
Burlington, North Carolina Ogden, Utah Glendora, California