MMC Materials’ Rodney Grogan leads NRMCA in 2018
New brands and digital products serving key building or pavement markets, coupled with allied group collaboration, have the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association set to sustain recent successes in membership, market and workforce development, plus advocacy at federal, state and local levels.
“Last year was good from the standpoint of growing members, including small producers,” says 2018 NRMCA Chairman Rodney Grogan, president of Ridgeland, Miss.-based MMC Materials Inc. “What’s important to me is reaching as many ready mixed producers and associates as possible, having them feel a part of our association, and finding value in membership.”
Market conditions favor the membership trajectory, he adds: “In talking to a number of NRMCA producers across the industry, we saw overall steady growth in 2017; some areas better than others. The Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas were among the strongest. Importantly, growth has been sustained, not from spikes.”
NRMCA recorded year-over-year ready mixed concrete volume increases for every month in 2017. “Most of our members are optimistic about continued growth in 2018 at a fairly moderate rate, similar to what we have seen over the past couple of years,” Grogan affirms.
SAFETY ABOVE ALL
A good economy and stable construction activity position NRMCA to advance recent Executive Committee and Board measures tailoring association structure and mission to changes in member company needs. Most notably, participants in the annual convention and ConcreteWorks; industry data, plant and fleet surveys; plus certification, education, promotion and advocacy efforts will see a committee streamlining. The Operations, Environmental & Safety Committee has become Safety, Environmental & Operations, while the OES-HR Task Group and Educational Activities Committee have merged into Workforce Development. They will assimilate Business Administration Committee functions and operate along side continuing Concrete Promotion and Research, Engineering & Standards Committees.
“Reorganization opens the possibility of greater committee involvement. Under the old structure, members were unable to attend some meetings at the Annual Convention or ConcreteWorks because of schedule conflicts,” Grogan explains. “New committee names correspond to what we feel is important as members. We stepped back last year, examined the entire association focus, and asked ourselves if we are still structured in the way needed to address current issues. I commend 2017 NRMCA Chairman Scott Parson for questioning the status quo, looking at things differently, and suggesting major changes.”
The OES example is most instructive, he adds, noting, “We looked at the industry over the last decade and saw greater emphasis on safety, which ties into workforce development and worker retention. It’s important for employees to know you care about their safety and wellbeing. The Operations side of the OES Committee is key, but the most important component of a ready mixed producer’s business is operating in a safe manner. We determined the OES Committee should be oriented to the top priority.”
Concurrent with the transition, Safety, Environmental & Operations members created a new Safety Award. Backed by the NRMCA Truck Mixer Manufacturers Bureau, it recognizes individuals or companies who institute a culture of safety throughout their operations.
The Workforce Development Committee combines training, education and certification. “What’s more important than training is what you look to accomplish with that exercise,” says Grogan. “We see a pressing need among members to recruit and retain drivers and other individuals who make ready mixed concrete businesses run. If we don’t have the workforce, our success is in doubt.”
Workforce Development emerges from a banner year for predecessor committees and task forces. NRMCA hosted 33 sessions in 2017, equaling 21,500 hours of instruction for nearly 1,900 attendees or participants. Additionally, 500-plus mixer drivers earned Concrete Delivery Professional certification, while 300 more viewed online safety lessons. Through State Affiliate partnerships, over 350 contractors were certified in pervious concrete placement.
Results from the Mixer Driver Recruitment & Retention Survey, a new Workforce Development benchmark of prior year trends, showed a brightening picture for 2017: 36 percent of respondents turned down business in 2016 due to lack of drivers versus 51 percent the prior year; driver vacancy rate steadily dropped about 2 percent during each of the past three years, to 4.6 percent; and, 92 percent of respondents indicated they would hire mixer drivers in 2017, up from 72 percent in 2016.
BUILD WITH STRENGTH
Workforce Development is one of four areas that will command the most attention from Rodney Grogan during his NRMCA Chairman’s term. “Going into this year, it is important to keep identifying attainable and actionable goals, and measuring progress of meeting them,” he says. Along with Workforce Development, he will track the Build With Strength coalition and companion Pave Ahead program; federal, state and local advocacy efforts; and, membership growth.
Build With Strength launched in 2016 to recapture and extend cast-in-place concrete methods’ share of the low- to mid-rise building market. “We are seeing real traction in the coalition through state association participation and members carrying the Build With Strength message at local levels,” notes Grogan.
“In our NRMCA State Association of the Year Award judging, all five candidates had a focus on Build With Strength efforts. The coalition needs opportunities brought from local or state allies to the national level if we are to have successful relationships with stakeholders and promotion targets.”
In contrast to the pavement market, where NRMCA has devoted significant resources, he adds, “The sales cycle for a building structure and enclosure is longer than a paving project. To convert a low- to mid-rise structure to concrete, we have to be engaged much earlier in the project than in the past.”
Using member and staff reports, along with Dodge Data & Analytics figures, NRMCA cites Build With Strength results. In the all-important metric—floor area for concrete buildings—the share in one to three-story projects increased from 21.6 in 2016 to 24.4 percent last year, while the share for four- to seven-story projects decreased from 16.7 percent to 15.3 percent.
Since the Build With Strength and Concrete Design Center services launch, NRMCA Structures & Sustainability Division staff, producer members and regional, state or local affiliates have consulted on 191 projects. Design assistance and promotional work have influenced projects accounting for 3.2 million yd3 of ready mixed concrete. Buildings converted from cast-in-place concrete alternatives, plus those where initial concrete specifications have been retained due to coalition influence, have amounted to 1.7 million yd3.
The Build With Strength Concrete Design Center is modeled on the more established Design Assistance Program (DAP) under the NRMCA Local Paving Department. DAP offers private or public project owners basic engineering details plus cost and life cycle comparisons between concrete and alternate materials for highway, street, parking lot and industrial pavements.
Local Paving is a fitting target of focus for 2018 NRMCA Chairman Grogan, whose career in construction materials began in 1994 with a 12-year tour of duty at a road building business under MMC Materials parent, Dunn Investments. In 2017, Local Paving staff teamed with producer member representatives and state or local allies to pursue 440 pavement projects—180 of them DAP report subjects. Of targeted projects’ 3.7 million yd3 of ready mixed concrete requirements, about 1 million yd3 was specified and delivered for streets or parking lots. That volume represents a nearly 15 percent increase above comparable 2016 figures.
In mainline highway pavements, Grogan notes, “Local Paving has conducted surveys to identify methods for NRMCA and allies to gain a greater share of Federal Highway Administration-funded projects, whose potential volume exceeds present annual ready mixed concrete deliveries. Surveys find that public and private construction decision makers have positive views of concrete pavements, especially in terms of cost, strength, durability and service life.”
To identify promotion strategies that will increase the share of concrete across the pavement market, NRMCA enlisted DDC, the Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm assisting the Build With Strength coalition. Last year, it developed the Pave Ahead brand and logo and launched a standalone web site highlighting the paving design center and related ready mixed concrete product offerings.
In addition to Pave Ahead, NRMCA has collaborated with the American Concrete Pavement Association and Portland Cement Association on web-based pavement design software for concrete and other cement-based paving solutions. The result is the January 2018 launch of PavementDesigner.org. The site affords visitors essential drawings and figures for concrete parking areas, streets and industrial applications using jointed plain concrete, continuously reinforced concrete and roller compacted concrete, plus considerations for composite pavement sections and full depth reclamation with cement and concrete overlays.
MMC Materials and fellow NRMCA members find the Trump Administration in tune with burdensome rules and regulations’ impact on the construction materials industry and overall economy. After more than a year into the new administration, notes Grogan, fewer businesses are concerned with where or when the next shoe is going to drop from the Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration—and more comfortable with the prospects for consistency from federal regulators. Over the past 14 months, NRMCA has welcomed the stalling, freezing or official withdrawal of more than 80 percent of rules or regulations the industry deemed “crucial targets” due to their negative impact on ready mixed concrete production or downstream construction activity.
|Major jobs on the MMC Memphis Area log have included a natural gas-powered plant for TVA.|
In fall 2017, NRMCA Government Affairs and Compliance & Operations representatives met with EPA staff to discuss participation in the new Smart Sectors program. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt aims to facilitate better communication with trade associations and “address executive orders on regulatory reform, energy independence, permit streamlining and the reconsideration of major regulations.” Ready mixed concrete is the newest of 14 Smart Sector industries with a continual direct line of communication to EPA. The program will ultimately help ready mixed concrete stakeholders communicate with the agency on regulatory burdens plus industry best management practices and environmental stewardship.
NRMCA cites an encouraging outlook for both regulatory relief and funding prospects from new legislation. Action on Capitol Hill has commenced in response to the $1 trillion-plus infrastructure plan President Donald Trump proposed earlier this year. In a statement following release of the White House’s transportation and environmental investment vision, NRMCA President Robert Garbini noted, “The president’s plan to rebuild America with American heart, hands and grit is a strong step forward in combating decades of neglect and decay. For too long, the pathways that have knitted this great nation together have crumbled before our eyes as our leaders, bogged down by other issues they deemed more important, sat on their hands. But the time has come where passing the buck to the next generation is no longer an option—we must act now.”
The NRMCA Government Affairs Department will weigh in on U.S. House and Senate spending targets and funding mechanisms behind the Trump infrastructure plan, while also tending to advocacy in other areas critical to the ready mixed concrete industry. Most recently, staff has compelled federal officials to establish and adopt a formal “resilient construction” definition—augmenting the Build With Strength coalition and advancing long-held association positions on sound-construction practice.
The newly passed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 formally applies resilient construction practice to the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development and Transportation, plus the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Institute of Standards and Technology. Provisions in the law will provide new windows of opportunity for NRMCA members and their customers.
|One of the latest additions to the MMC Materials mixer fleet, proudly sporting an NRMCA-backed coalition’s message to the low- to mid-rise building market, was dispatched to a company truck rodeo.|
Advocating for resilient construction is not confined to federal agency standards or projects. NRMCA-backed policy changes in Washington, D.C., instill sound-construction methods at the state and local levels as lawmakers and FEMA officials cope with the skyrocketing costs taxpayers incur to help rebuild in areas where officials fail to adopt or enforce current building codes.
Whether it’s a push for resilient construction, Build With Strength or Pave Ahead, NRMCA resources are increasingly steered to promotion. “It has taken us as an industry to make the shift, but we have had to become more promotion driven, not just a service and order-taking business like we had leading into the recession,” says Grogan, who soon after arriving at MMC Materials confronted a market drop forcing a 35 percent mixer fleet and headcount cut.
Like many peers, MMC Materials has emerged from 2009-2012 a stronger business. “Through my participation in NRMCA, I have been able to process issues with individuals who have helped me make our company better,” Grogan affirms. “I would not have had that opportunity if I had not taken the time to be engaged with NRMCA. Involvement with the association is one of those things everyone looks back on and questions ‘What’s in it for me? For my company?’ I can attest that I have seen some real advantage and gain through being active in NRMCA.”
MMC Materials At-A-Glance
With 50-plus ready mixed concrete plants, MMC Materials Inc. and sister operation Bayou Concrete deliver comprehensive solutions to commercial and residential customers throughout Mississippi, southern Alabama, western Tennessee and eastern Louisiana. Management is straightforward about each company’s mission: “To be the most respected ready mix concrete supplier in each market we serve. We will focus on the basics of our business: Superior Quality, Employee Enhancement, Responsive Customer Service, and Financial Stability.”
MMC Materials marked 90 years in business in 2017, reflecting on phases of growth that established a deep footprint in Mississippi then neighboring states. 2018 National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Chairman Rodney Grogan has been president of MMC Materials since 2006 and more recently gained responsibility for Bayou Concrete and another sister business, Dunn Road Builders. He had led the latter business for nine years prior to the MMC Materials appointment.
NATIONAL READY MIXED CONCRETE ASSOCIATION At-A-Glance
The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association has been the lead industry advocate inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway since 1930. It works on behalf of producers, suppliers, manufacturers, service providers and other industry stakeholders through codes and standards development, promotion, and education activities to ensure ready mixed concrete is the building material of choice.
Now in its eighth decade, NRMCA advances producer interests by tracking and influencing federal, state and local governments’ impact on the industry; developing and implementing product enhancements and market strategies; and, offering a wide range of workforce development programs. It partners with state or regional associations on promotion and market development efforts, along with legislative and regulatory concerns.
To improve member service and industry outreach, NRMCA has recently structured staff within Compliance & Operations, Concrete Promotion, Engineering, Government Affairs, Local Paving, Marketing, Membership/Communications, and Structures & Sustainability Departments or Divisions. Senior staff members act as liaisons to these newly formed or legacy committees: Promtion; Government Affairs; Memberships; Research, Engineering and Standards; Safety, Environmental and Operations; and, Workforce Development.
Robert Garbini, P.E., is president of NRMCA, 900 Spring St., Silver Spring, MD 20910; 301/587-1400 or 888/84NRMCA; www.nrmca.org.
MMC Materials Inc.
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIRMAN
Oldcastle Materials West Division
President and CEO
U.S. Concrete Inc.