Editor's note: Russell Willett is the new chairman of the board of directors for the Michigan Concrete Association (MCA). His term began in March and runs through February 2008. He is also the president of R & R Ready Mix, where he oversees all facets of the company's operations.
During my term, I would like to focus attention on four areas: parking lot promotion, the Six Star Driveway program, the MCA political action committee, and membership development.
Last year, MCA created and filled the new position of parking lot promotion manager, which significantly enhances our marketing and promotional programs. The addition of a staff member devoted to promoting concrete parking lots to commercial and municipal establishments throughout Michigan should generate an increase in concrete parking lots as well as more business for our members.
The Great Lakes Cement Promotion Association has contributed funding for this promotional program and we are very grateful for their contribution. Eventually, we expect that the promotion manager will also help with the promotion of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) and work to strengthen our relationships with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA), the Portland Cement Association (PCA), the Michigan Concrete Paving Association (MCPA), and the Great Lakes Cement Promotion Association (GLCPA).
As part of this promotional program, MCA will be placing special emphasis on the use of pervious concrete for parking lots. Last year's paving of the MCA parking lot marked the introduction of pervious concrete in Michigan. Pervious concrete is a structural concrete pavement with a large volume (15 percent to 35 percent) of interconnected voids. Like conventional concrete, it's made from a mixture of cement, coarse aggregates, and water. However, it contains little or no sand, which results in a porous open-cell structure that water passes through readily. Pervious concrete can pass 3 gallons to 5 gallons of water per minute, which is far greater than most conceivable rain events and highly effective in controlling storm water drainage.
One program that I feel very strongly about is the Six Star Driveway Program, which MCA developed to ensure Michigan homebuilders and homeowners of the highest quality materials and workmanship for their residential driveways. Developed four years ago, the Six Star program has helped to minimize the need for driveway callbacks and replacements, by raising the standards for material and workmanship. Six Star has set a benchmark for proper placement procedures for residential exterior concrete. Although there have not been many warranties issued to date, the existence of the Six Star program has elevated residential concrete standards. Just look at the number of concrete contractors that have been through the American Concrete Institute (ACI) Flatwork programs as a result of the Six Star program, and are now putting in much better products. While these contractors may not sell the Six Star warranty, they know how to properly install concrete. And this has made concrete a much better product.
MCA also needs to get the Six Star message to homebuilders so that they recognize the importance of hiring qualified contractors. We need to help builders recognize Six Star as an upgrade that they can market to their customers. We need to retain the Six Star concept and name to sustain the gains we have made to date and push for incremental improvements in the future.
I believe that strengthening our Political Action Committee (PAC) program is essential. We need to reinvigorate it and devote more resources to improve our effectiveness with this activity. The MCA PAC is involved with and continues to monitor such issues as chute washout, high-capacity wells, wash water, weight laws, drivers' hours of service, and the single business tax replacement. Since environmental and trucking issues seem to resurface every few years, we will be even more vigilant in identifying and responding, at the earliest possible stage, to those legislative issues that will impact our members.
Given the current economic conditions in Michigan, the year ahead will be a challenging time for concrete producers, but also a very important time for producers to stay involved with MCA and continue their support. During these difficult economic times, MCA will work to strengthen its relationships with current and potential members. We plan to schedule more in-person visits to potential and existing members throughout the state to make them aware of the benefits of MCA membership.
It is important that all producers respect our industry and continue to make ready mix concrete the preferred product for the construction industry. We as producers have a choice as to how our industry is perceived. If we hope to attract young and talented people to our industry we must continue to improve and make our industry highly respected.