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Focus - A robust industry

image Bill Sandbrook, Vice Chairman, President & CEO, US Concrete Inc., Euless, TX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - Sandbrook is a 1979 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After receiving his Bachelor of Science in management, he spent 13 years in the U.S. Army which included a four-year tour in Germany in cavalry and engineering units, three years as an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Military Academy and two years as the Army Program representative to Raytheon. While teaching at West Point, Sanbrook also served as a social aide to President Ronald Reagan and earned his Professional Engineer’s License (PE) in Industrial Engineering.


    In addition to his qualifications as an Army Ranger, he earned four Master’s Degrees while in the service - an MBA from Wharton, a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master in Public Policy from the Naval War College and Master of Arts in International Relations from Salve Regina University.

What are the “hot button” issues in the concrete industry?
    Currently it is lack of skilled truck drivers that are qualified with commercial driver’s licenses.  It is a problem facing all the trades and it manifests itself in actual ready-mix truck drivers in that they are very difficult to source in all of our markets. 
    In addition, the weather that we have been experiencing in recent months and in some parts of the country for multiple years is disrupting construction schedules and has been ongoing especially through a very rainy, cold and wintery first quarter of 2018.

How do you overcome the weather issue?
    We have to watch our costs. Non-productive labor is a drain on our resources. If our concrete contractor customers are unable to perform their construction services because of the weather, we have no other outlet for that concrete so it all comes down to cost containment.

How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms? Has there been an increase or a slowdown?
    I would say the construction industry is very robust and there is a lot of pent up demand for jobs that are in progress and have been delayed because of the weather. But outside of the weather, I’m very certain we are in a very robust construction environment especially in the markets we serve. We have a regional footprint that is very focused on the bay area of California, the Dallas/Fort Worth market, West Texas, the Mid-Atlantic States from Washington, DC through Philadelphia, northern New Jersey into New York City. My comments are very specific to these markets, which are extremely vibrant. 

Why do you feel they are so vibrant in those markets?
    I think that we are still in a very good part of the economic cycle. I think the unemployment rate has had an impact on both residential and commercial construction, and with the GDP approaching three percent on an annualized rate, which is significantly higher than it has been in the last eight years, I think there is a lot of optimism for further growth now that people are spending more money. New homes are being purchased and constructed. New office buildings are being built.
    A move from brick and mortar retail has led to the real growth of big box warehouses in various parts of the country that take a lot of concrete. So all of the above are leading to the robustness we are seeing.

What are the major changes in the concrete industry in recent years?
    Technology is moving forward quickly in both the mixes we use and in the conscious awareness of sustainability and environmentally friendly products, especially low-carbon products. We are seeing much more interest in that now than we did in 2010.
    There is much emphasis on decreasing the cement content of concrete mixes and replacing that with fly ash, which actually lowers the carbon footprint of the material supply chain. And then there is a push for consolidation, not only in the concrete industry, but in the materials industry as well. The small family-owned businesses are finding it ever more difficult to compete in the world that we live in with increased regulation.

Have there been any recent changes in legislation affecting the concrete industry relating to transportation or the environment?
    There has been more regulatory attention on wages and environmental laws with increased scrutiny of enforcement that it’s catching up to smaller businesses. Large companies are used to that scrutiny and usually have a staff of people that can deal with that.

What is on the horizon for your industry? (Changes in technology; equipment; other)

    I think there will be continued consolidation. I think we’re still in a good part of the economic cycle and that technology will continue to make strides. I’m not sure where driverless concrete trucks are going to fall, but I think there are going to be a significant number of improvements to driver safety, through technology.

U.S. Concrete is a producer of ready-mixed concrete and aggregates.  -cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net