Dolese team helps to mask the masses

As the coronavirus swept through the United States, workers at Dolese Bros. Co. stepped forward to help friends, family, and co-workers by sewing masks. The effort was spearheaded by Julie Tucker and Donna Smith, who both work in the company’s accounting department.

Members of the accounting department at Dolese Bros. Co. worked together to sew hundreds of masks to protect friends, family, and co-workers.

“We kind of felt a loss of control,” Tucker says as the group saw the rapid spread of COVID-19 through New York City. As she wondered what she could do, Smith offered to show her how to sew. Smith found a pattern while Tucker pulled out a sewing machine that had been stashed in the back of her closet for nearly 15 years.

Other members of the department pitched in by helping to cut, pin, and press fabric. “The majority of us here have had our hands in it at some point,” Tucker says. “It just kind of spiraled.” Within weeks, the group had sewn hundreds of masks that were shared with people throughout the community.

While the shutdown of local stores such as Hobby Lobby made it more difficult for the volunteers to find supplies, they received numerous fabric donations.

Foundation established by former Ash Grove Cement president funds relief efforts

The Sunderland Foundation gave The Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) a $100,000 gift, the Ozarks Independent reports. In turn, the CFO has passed over $1 million in COVID-19 grants.

In its latest round of donations includes grants to the following:

  • Boys & Girls Club of Springfield for food, supplies and virtual programming opportunities.
  • O-STEAM to support the use of 3D printers to make face shields for emergency workers.
  • People Helping People for food pantry expenses.
  • Shepherd’s Nook Food Pantry for food pantry expenses.
  • Ministerial Alliance of the Hermann Area to assist low-income families with COVID-19 emergency expenses.
  • Mountain Grove Love Food Center for food distribution.
  • NAMI for virtual support-group expenses and mental health responders.

The Sutherland Foundation was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as the president of Ash Grove Cement Co. for 33 years.

CEMEX delivers soap and water mixture via mixer trucks

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, CEMEX has dispatched its mixer trucks filled with soap and water mixtures to sanitize streets and public health areas around the world.

Projects include:

  • A hospital emergency room entrance in the Dominican Republic,
  • The streets of Puerto Rico,
  • Areas around Panama health centers,
  • Colombia’s largest central market (1.9 million square feet), and
  • Hospital entrances and the university campus in Assiut, Egypt.

The company also donated nearly 900 pounds of clementines grown at a reclaimed quarry site in Alicante Spain to a shelter in that city.

LafargeHolcim revises its 2020 guidance in response to the global pandemic

While construction materials markets have been more resilient than many others, LafargeHolcim reports that it is now experiencing disruptions in operations in various countries.

In China, the recovery of the construction sector has started and all its plants outside of Hubei Province are operating. The company forecasts the market demand to further recover and to supply 70 percent of last year’s volume in April 2020.

In most of the other key markets, however, the construction sector is disrupted, and it forecasts significant volume declines in April and May, with a significant negative impact on its business in the second quarter.

“Currently the development of the Coronavirus pandemic and its implications for the business are volatile and very different from country to country,” the company said in a press release. “In order to mitigate the financial impact of the situation, we have launched the action plan ‘HEALTH, COST & CASH’ for immediate execution in all countries.”

Key objectives include the following:

  • Reduction of CAPEX by at least $416 million compared to 2019;
  • Reduction in fixed cost by $312 million in 2020;
  • Realization of reduction of energy prices and full review of all third-party products and services; and
  • Reduction of net working capital at least in line with level of activity.

Based on a significantly strengthened balance sheet, LafargeHolcim has liquidity of $8.3 billion as of March 26, 2020.

“Due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, the guidance for 2020 is no longer valid,” it notes. “While the implementation of the action plan ‘HEALTH, COST & CASH’ is in full execution, the dynamic, volatile development of the Coronavirus pandemic makes it currently no longer possible to fully evaluate its impact on the performance of LafargeHolcim in 2020. We will provide a more comprehensive business update at the first quarter 2020 results release on April 30, 2020.”

Infrastructure investment can jump start the economy

To date, Congress has approved three aid packages, including the most recent $2 trillion package, trying to offset the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. economy. While House and Senate leaders appear to have different opinions on the need for a fourth package, numerous organizations say infrastructure investment is another option to jumpstart the economy while addressing significant transportation needs.

President Trump signaled his approval for an infrastructure package after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi raised the issue during an appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ program earlier today. He weighed in on Twitter, noting “With interest rates for the United States being at zero, this is the time to do our decades long awaited infrastructure bill. It should be very big and bold, $2 trillion, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our country! Phase 4.”

While the legislative and executive branches may not yet be in agreement about infrastructure spending as part of a fourth stimulus package, numerous groups say this typically bipartisan issue would benefit the economy.

Transportation Construction Coalition

The Transportation Construction Coalition spelled out its argument for infrastructure spending in a letter to Congress’ majority and minority leaders in House and Senate.

“While there are diverse and well-intended views on how federal policy can stabilize and resuscitate the U.S. economy during times of crisis, there are few initiatives that can match the combination of immediate and long-term benefits of increased infrastructure,” the TCC writes. “The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee last July demonstrated infrastructure legislation focused on providing tangible outcomes can also garner overwhelming bipartisan support. The Committee’s unanimous approval of a five-year reauthorization of the federal highway program offers a proactive and meaningful path forward for Congress to deliver an urgently needed economic boost.”

The World Economic Forum

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association recently shared a post from the World Economic Forum titled: Why infrastructure is the only way to fight a COVID-19 recession in the US.

“When monetary policy isn’t enough, a country must turn towards fiscal policy,” WEC writes. “Right now, reviving the lagging US infrastructure sector may be the best approach: infrastructure creates economic growth, 5G cellular infrastructure will allow for faster data rates, a better electric grid allows us to drive electric cars, and new roads reduce congestion and commute times.”

The report notes that the US is 30 years behind on its infrastructure. Its three-point solution includes consolidating government authority to execute infrastructure projects, prioritizing projects using data-driven decision-making process, and harnessing innovation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution to improve construction technology.

The Conference Board

The Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board has a similar message. In a recent Solutions Brief, it notes that such an option is a pressing 2020 issue to address economic slowdowns.

“As we face this crisis, we need world-leading infrastructure to facilitate the global competitiveness of U.S. businesses and create opportunities for all Americans to prosper,” says CED President Lori Esposito Murray. “A bold commitment to infrastructure investment now will super-charge the U.S. economy and help us pull ourselves out of this downturn.”

NSSGA pushes Young Leaders meeting to August

In response to the situation surrounding COVID-19 virus, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) announced it would reschedule its Young Leaders Annual Meeting to Aug. 2-5 in Naples. The event was originally scheduled for May 4-7.

“NSSGA and our member leadership had to make difficult decisions regarding our upcoming Young Leaders Annual Meeting,” the association posted on its website. “In an effort to protect the health of our members and staff, we are postponing the 2020 Young Leaders Annual Meeting, to be rescheduled for Aug 2-5, 2020 in Naples at the La Playa Beach & Golf Resort.”

NSSGA staff will work with currently registered attendees to either refund registration fees or transfer it to the new dates. Those who have registered will not be charged a cancellation fee if they choose to cancel.

“We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this process in the coming weeks,” the post said. “The YL Annual Meeting is an event that we look forward to every year for its unparalleled opportunities to build your professional network and advance your leadership skills.”

Aggregates industry asserts itself as an essential business, focuses on worker protection

Martin Stone Co.

Throughout the nation, aggregate producers – like so many – are grappling with the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and employees. Producers must navigate a business environment that changes not only daily, but, in some cases, hourly. New terminology such as social distancing and essential business are quickly affecting producers.

As an industry, we must continue to protect our workers, not only from a health and safety perspective, but also an economic one. Through recent days, numerous states and local governments have ordered millions of citizens to remain at home and not go to work unless providing “essential services.” The industry quickly responded, asserting its role as an essential business.

“It is imperative that the aggregates and construction industry are allowed to continue operations to perform the work necessary to build and maintain our nation’s infrastructure,” says NSSGA President & CEO Michael W. Johnson.  “State and local governments must include aggregate operations as essential to continue operation, as the aggregates industry is vital to improving public works projects that are essential for delivering much needed medical supplies, food and goods, clean water, and energy to the American people as we address this pandemic.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to President Trump urging his administration to issue guidance on quarantine and closure orders that clarify “essential infrastructure” and “essential businesses and services.” It says the federal government should recommend exemptions including, but not limited, public works construction, construction of housing, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, nuclear, oil refining and other critical energy services, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems “provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements.”

NSSGA and 22 more associations echoed the Chamber’s sentiments in a letter of their own that was sent to President Trump; Steven Munichin, Secretary, Department of the Treasury; Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security; and governors across the United States.

An “essential business”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers transportation systems to be part of the critical infrastructure during COVID-19 but had not clarified – at the outset – how far down the supply chain that definition goes. This put state leaders in the position of determining what each state considered to be an essential business.

On Thursday, March 19, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order closing all non-essential businesses within the state. Aggregates operations were not initially included on the state’s list of essential businesses.

“We were very surprised to hear at 5 p.m. that we were to be closed by the Governor because we are ‘not life sustaining,'” says Rod Martin, president of Martin Stone Quarries and chairman of the board of the Pennsylvania Aggregates and Concrete Association (PACA). “Earlier in the week when they started with restrictions to help ‘flatten the curve,’ we were included on the list of ‘essential businesses.'”

It was soon all-hands on deck as state and national associations went to work to clarify the importance of aggregates role in building essential infrastructure.

Karen Hubacz-Kiley, chief operating officer of Bond Construction, emphasizes that – in the New England region – the aggregates industry provide materials necessary for the traction that improves safety of commuters traveling to hospitals, supermarkets, and other necessary businesses.

“Not including aggregates in the definition of essential businesses is short sighted and dangerous to the health and safety of those who must report to work,” she says. “With the mostly mild winter behind us, many cities and towns do not have a stockpile of aggregates should an emergency need arise for these materials.

“Nearly all individuals working in the aggregate business maintain more than 6 feet of separation as they are in different vehicles during processes that occur,” Hubacz-Kiley adds. “Aggregate operations can easily do their job and continue our necessary work while following all the CDC guidelines.”

Industry efforts were met with success on March 20 when Pennsylvania revised its list of essential businesses to include minerals production. Even more importantly, aggregate producers in other states will not face the same challenge: mineral production was recognized by the Department of Homeland Security as an essential business.

Protecting worker safety

As with other health and safety issues, their employees are of top concern for aggregates companies. They are focused on protecting their workers, even as they face the unique challenge presented by the coronavirus.

“The health and safety of our employees, customers, vendors, and communities is and always will be our top priority. During this time of concern, we are taking several precautionary steps to minimize staff contact while remaining accessible to all our partners. Temporarily, we are limiting non-employee visits to our offices unless it is critical in nature and has been approved in advance by a site manager,” says Darin Matson, Rogers Group Inc. president and CEO, in a statement on how the company is responding to the pandemic. “In addition, our sales teams and other customer-centric employees will only be visiting customer offices upon their specific request. This is to insure we create a business environment that protects the health of our employees and business partners, while offering the service and support you have grown to expect from Rogers Group.”

“Our employees have been encouraged to follow social distancing and personal hygiene recommendations. In addition, they have been instructed to stay home if they are sick, avoid non-essential travel, and avoid attending business-related events. We will continue to monitor this situation and take additional measures as needed,” Jaime Murguiro, president of CEMEX USA, says in a letter to customers.

“This is uncharted territory for all of us, and we all need to work diligently to protect our workers and customers,” says Bill Schmitz, vice president of quality control and sales at Gernatt Asphalt Products, Inc. “Keeping up to date with what other aggregate and hot-mix asphalt producers are doing is a great help.” Schmitz adds that the company’s management team is sharing information across the team via email. It is also posting best practices and notices at all plant entry points to stress working from a safe distance.

“Things are so dynamic that we are struggling to keep up as the mandates progress from federal, state, and local authorities,” he adds. “I am sure producers who operate across multiple state lines are struggling even more as the regulations are changing by the hour.”

“Martin Stone Quarries, as well as other operators, have taken additional steps like telling our employees they should not congregate in the break rooms, supplied employees with disinfectant spray for their vehicles, stopped accepting cash at our scales, eliminated the signing of tickets at our truck scales, and many more,” Martin notes.

While protecting their own employees, aggregate producers are also looking out for the communities in which they operate. For example, Winn Materials LLC, a StonePoint Materials Co., scoured its stocks and found excess boxes of N95 masks that it donated to the local Veterans Affair hospital.

“We recognize that these are unprecedented times for all of us,” the company posted on its LinkedIn page. “We at Winn Materials are committed to the health and safety of our team members, customers, our families, and our communities… It’s not much, but it’s something. We are all in this together. We at Winn Materials ask others to look for ways you can help in this time of need.”

Chief Administrative Law Judge issues order suspending hearings

Due to the risk posed by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, Stephen R. Henley, issued an Administrative Order and Notice, 2020-MIS-00006 (Chief ALJ March 19, 2020) suspending all hearings and procedural deadlines, with limited exceptions, through May 15, 2020. The order goes into effect on Monday, March 23, 2020.

According to the order, parties may petition the presiding administrative law judge (ALJ) to conduct a telephonic hearing based on compelling circumstances.

The moratorium on hearings does not include cases in which the parties have jointly agreed to a decision on the record based on stipulations of fact or a stipulated record.

All procedural deadlines in cased currently pending before the Office of Administrative Law Judges are suspended until May 15, 2020, unless otherwise ordered by the presiding ALJ.

The moratorium on procedural deadlines does not apply to cases not yet docketed so parties who need to file a request for a hearing before an ALJ must still file within the limitations period and may do so via mail.

ConExpo-Con/Agg leaders say equipment industry remains optimistic, despite COVID-19 concerns

Multiple construction and construction materials industry segments converged on the Las Vegas Convention Center and Festival Grounds as they came together for ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE last week to unveil new technologies and products, share knowledge, network with industry peers, and buy equipment.

Registrations for the show totaled over 130,000. At the conclusion of the show, cancellations from international attendees totaled less than 1 percent.
“We refer to ConExpo-Con/Agg as the ‘heavy metal’ show, but it’s more than that. It’s also small equipment, education and technology. And that was reflected in every way this week,” said Mary Erholtz, vice president of marketing at Superior Industries and ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 show
chairperson. “Giant machines, incredible exhibits, fantastic education, and huge expectations.

Organizers of ConExpo-Con/Agg have a legacy of building and innovating on previous shows, and the 2020 gathering extends that record of success.
“This has been one of the best editions of ConExpo-Con/Agg – ever,” continued Erholtz.

Exhibitors across the show, from the Festival Grounds to North Hall to Bronze Lot to South Hall, expressed enthusiasm for the engagement they received from contractors and producers looking to purchase equipment.

According to IFPE Show Chairperson David Price, global marketing manager of HydraForce Inc., “The crowd was much better than expected under the circumstances, and, most importantly, the right buyers were on the show floor. We were very pleased with the strong showing from the 300-plus exhibitors at IFPE 2020, and we are looking forward to the 2023 show.”

Mike Ballweber, president, Doosan Bobcat echoed those sentiments, “Tuesday for us was record breaking in terms of leads and attendance at our booth, which is how we measure how successful the show is for us. We had more people to our booth on the first day than all of the 2017 show. This is a one-every-three-years show, and our dealers and customers were really excited to be here.”

With growing concerns about COVID-19, show management worked closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Southern Nevada Health District to make sure exhibitors, vendors, and attendees were provided with heightened cleaning services and hand sanitizers to help reduce the spread of germs and enable show participation to stay healthy onsite at the show.

“We have been pleased with the success of the overall show and attendance in our booth,” said Ingo Schiller, president and CEO of Tadano America Corp. “The management team at ConExpo-Con/Agg has been monitoring the situation, and they made a very difficult decision to close the show a
day early. We appreciate their leadership, and we look forward to ConExpo-Con/Agg 2023.”

Key metrics reflect overall quality of ConExpo-Con/Agg and IFPE 2020 attendees:
– U.S. buyer attendance increased 8 percent from the 2017 show, and total buyer attendance improved by almost 5 percent.
– Overall contractor and producer attendance grew by 14 percent.
– 6-in-7 attendees serve in a decision-making role.
– Total registered attendance reached over 130,000 for the week.
– Attendees purchased a record-breaking 75,622 tickets for education sessions at the show, a 46-percent increase from the 2017 show.

At the same time, the technological change revolutionizing these industries was pervasive across the shows’ record 2.7 million-plus net square feet of exhibits featuring 2,300-plus exhibitors from the leading U.S. and global manufacturers, from multinational giants to small firms with specialized products.

Other highlights included:
– Partnership with women in construction groups to highlight the growing role women play in the industry, including the unveiling of the world’s largest 3-D printed statute of a human to honor the growing role women play in the construction industry.
– Workforce solutions area in the Festival Lot that showcased industry recruitment best practices.
– The Tech Experience returned for a second year and focused on modern mobility, sustainability, and smart cities.
– The first-ever Fluid Power Hour for the co-located IFPE show.

ConExpo-Con/Agg ends early as COVID-19 impact widens

AEM released the following statement regarding ConExpo-Con/Agg:

Due to the growing concerns about COVID-19, the travel restrictions put in place by the President, and changing corporate travel policies that impact many of our attendees and exhibitors, we have made the decision to close ConExpo-Con/Aagg & IFPE one day early, closing on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m.

We made this decision based on conversations with our AEM officers and other leadership, several top exhibitors, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the office of the Nevada Governor.

As we have said from early February when the first news of COVID-19 became available, we were committed to monitoring the situation daily and keeping our top priority focused on the health and safety of all participants at ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE 2020, including attendees, exhibitors, vendors, staff, industry partners, and others involved in the show.

After 5 p.m. on March 13, we will begin to dismantle booths and begin the scheduled process of removing equipment from the show floor.

We thank our exhibitors, attendees, vendors and the City of Las Vegas for its support throughout this week.

Final attendance numbers will be available soon.