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.

CalPortland named Energy Star Partner 16th time

CalPortland announced that it has once again been awarded the 2020 Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award for continued leadership and superior contributions to Energy Star by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“CalPortland is proud to receive the 2020 Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award,” said CalPortland President/CEO Allen Hamblen in a press release. The award is the highest honor among Energy Star awards.

“Finding new and innovative solutions to create energy efficiencies has become an integral part of our company culture, and we are honored to celebrate our employees’ ongoing efforts by achieving this tremendous award for the 16th consecutive year,” Hamblen added. “CalPortland remains committed to reducing emissions and reducing our company’s environmental footprint by contributing to the circular economy.”

CalPortland has been an Energy Star Partner since 1996 and says it remains dedicated to demonstrating and promoting energy efficiency within the company and to other companies in the construction materials industry. The 2020 national award is the sixteenth consecutive Energy Star Partner of the Year Award for CalPortland; a feat that has never been matched by any other industrial company.

Since 2003, CalPortland’s energy management efforts have reduced the company’s overall energy intensity by 16.5 percent, avoiding $135 million in unnecessary energy costs. Key 2019 accomplishments include:

  • Reducing the carbon footprint and embodied energy of its cement products by developing for the market blended cements.
  • Advancing energy efficiency and emission reductions through extensive upgrades to the company’s mobile fleet, rail operations, and cement plants, amounting to significant expenditures in capital efficiency projects.
  • Working with the leadership of the national cement, concrete, and asphalt trade associations to increase industry involvement in energy management and Energy Star.
  • Earning Energy Star certification for the eighth consecutive time for the Rillito Cement Plant.
  • Incorporating strategic elements in the corporate energy program by using Energy Star’s cement plant certification, Challenge for Industry, and Treasure Hunt campaign.
  • Focusing on community engagement and in-person education by reaching more than 136,000 individuals on good energy management best practices and Energy Star.
  • Incorporating energy management and Energy Star into the company’s corporate-wide professional development training program through videos, an intranet site, new employee orientation, and regular employee engagements.

“I salute the 2020 Energy Star award winners,” said Anne Idsal, EPA principal deputy assistant administrator for air and radiation. “These leaders demonstrate how energy efficiency drives economic competitiveness in tandem with environmental protection.”

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.

CRH holds inaugural Women’s IMPACT Conference in Washington, D.C.

A total of 31 female leaders from across CRH’s businesses joined together in Washington, D.C. in mid-March to celebrate Women in Construction Week. The event was in the lead up to International Women’s Day as part of CRH’s inaugural Women’s IMPACT Conference. The women engaged with Congress to educate them on the issues facing the industry.

Over a two-day span, the group met with 45 representatives, senators, and chiefs of staff and lobbied Congress to discuss critical issues for the construction materials industry including workforce development, infrastructure funding, and regulatory and permitting reform.

“The conference gave us a platform to tell our story as women and construction industry professionals,” said Sheila Barkevich, hot mix asphalt (HMA) performance manager for CRH Americas Materials. “Decisions made at the federal level can directly affect our lives and businesses. It’s up to us as industry experts to help guide them to make the best decisions. To be given the opportunity make an impact with this amazing group of women was an awesome experience.”

With an estimated 1.1 million women working in construction, women now represent 9.9 percent of the industry workforce. The gender pay gap is significantly smaller in construction occupations, with women earning on average 99.1 percent of what men make. The U.S. average is 81.1 percent.

CRH has set a goal to achieve 33 percent female senior leadership by 2030, aligning with the standard set for FTSE 100 companies.

CRH brought dozens of its female leaders to Washington, D.C. for its first Women’s IMPACT Conference. Over two days, they met with 45 representatives, senators, and chiefs of staff, including Rep. Roger Williams.

Vulcan’s Quarry Crusher Run Series raises funds for its local communities

In less than a decade, Vulcan Materials Co.’s Quarry Crusher Run Series has drawn more than 13,000 racers and raised over $500,000 for its local communities. Importantly, the race events also provide an opportunity for community members to enter an aggregate operation, learn what happens behind the gates, and understand how its products are used throughout the community.

“A lot of people run or walk just to come out to a quarry and see what’s behind those gates. People are curious, so it’s like a big open house for us, and we love sharing our story with our neighbors in the community,” says Carol Landrum, manager of community and government relations, Southeast Division, Vulcan Materials Co. “Nothing helps people understand our business better than letting them see it for themselves.”

“It’s that ‘aha’ moment when you enter a quarry,” adds Jaime Lomas, race director. “It’s not something that people often get to see.”

To learn more or sign up for Quarry Crusher Run Series, visit its website. Watch for more background on the event in the Good Neighbors column in the April issue of Rock Products.

Editor’s note: The March run was canceled due to concerns with COVID-19.

Six Walker Aggregate sites recognized by OSSGA

Six Walker Aggregates Inc. sites were recognized by the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA), earning its Industry Advancement Award, including the Duntroon Quarry, McGregor Quarry, Ridgemount Quarry, Severn Quarry, Vineland Quarries and Crushed Stone, and Walker Brothers Quarries.

The award program recognizes activities that contribute to the progressive image of producer members and the aggregate industry as a whole. The key goal is to raise the bar in the industry by highlighting operations that go above and beyond what is required by legislation.

Highlights from the various operations, in addition to a focus on noise and dust control, include:

Duntroon Quarry keeps neighbors informed through its website, newsletters, and Public Liason Committee (PLC) events. It also engages in sponsorship of community groups, makes contributions to local charities, and provides volunteers for local organizations.

McGregor Quarry hosts an annual community barbecue, site tours, and an annual PLC holiday wine and cheese reception. It also hosts site tours from local schools and public members who want to learn more about its operation. It sponsors numerous organizations and helped organize a food drive for its local food bank.

Ridgemount Quarry donated 128 tons of stone to Habitat for Humanity Niagara and made a cash donation to a local organization that protects and improves the local waterscape. The site is well known to paleontologists who look for fossilized sea scorpions which were once native to the area. It supplied fossil photos and samples for OSSGA’s pilot educational program, Rocks ‘N Our World.

Severn Quarry enforces strict traffic guidelines with the help of a retired police officer. It hosts annual PLC events, student tours, and local model airplane club meetings. Two groups of Georgian College students visited the site last fall as part of their Earth Science program.

Vineland Quarries and Crushed Stone hosts a hut for a local Scout troop, conservation lands, and bee crates for a local beekeeper. In 2019, it donated more than 243 tons of stones to a variety of local organizations, as well as cash and volunteer donations to a local community.

Walker Brothers Quarries also uses a retired police officer to enforce traffic policies. In addition to donated cash and 129 tons of stone to local charitable organizations, site staff lent their time to tree planting and maintenance work at a local butterfly garden.

U.S. Concrete acquires New York-based Coram Materials for $142 million

U.S. Concrete, Inc. completed the acquisition of Coram Materials Corp. for a purchase price of $142 million and significantly expanded its East Coast aggregates reserves. “The acquisition should produce a margin profile in excess of the company’s average within the first full year of ownership,” said William J. Sandbrook, chairman and CEO, in a press release. “Post synergies, which we expect to achieve within two years, the deal represents a multiple of approximately seven times EBITDA.”

The acquisition includes significant, premium sand reserves that will not only supply U.S. Concrete’s ready-mix operation in New York City, but also allow for external sales to third-party customers. “Coram’s 50 million tons of reserves, located in the quickly depleting Long Island sand market, increases the vertical integration of our New York operations, strengthens our competitive position, and advances the continuation of our strategy of expanding into higher margin aggregates businesses,” Sandbrook noted. “Following our successful Polaris acquisition, we continue to seek out accretive opportunities of coupling the pull through capabilities of our large regional footprints of ready-mixed concrete operations with attractive aggregate assets.”

CEMEX announces plans for further CO2 emission cuts

CEMEX, S.A.B. de C.V. announced a new Climate Action strategy, which outlines the company’s vision to advance towards a carbon-neutral economy and to address society’s increasing demands more efficiently, noting ” we believe that climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time and support the urgency of collective action.”

To date, it reports that it has reduced net specific CO2 emissions by more than 22 percent compared to its 1990 baseline. “But we acknowledge that this is not enough,” the company wrote in a press release. The company has increased its target to a 35-percent reduction of net specific CO2 emissions by 2030. It is also establishing a new ambition to deliver net-zero CO2 concrete by 2050.

“Climate change has been a priority for CEMEX for many years. Our efforts have brought significant progress to date, but we must do more. This is why we have defined a more ambitious strategy to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 and to deliver net-zero CO2 concrete by 2050,” said Fernando A. Gonzalez, CEO of CEMEX. CEMEX has an alternative fuel substitution rate of 27 percent.

The company has created a detailed CO2 roadmap to accelerate the roll-out of proven technologies in all of its facilities, including investing in energy efficiency, using alternative fuels, expanding the use of renewable energy, and increasing the substitution of clinker with alternative cementitious materials.

Michigan bill could streamline sand and gravel permits

Michigan sand and gravel producers could see streamlined permitting if S.B. 431 passes.

If passed, Michigan Senate Bill 431, sponsored by Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), would protect future development of the state’s natural resources by “prohibiting a local unit of government from preventing, prohibiting, or denying a permit, approval, or other authorization for the mining of natural resources if the natural resources were valuable and very serious consequences would not result from the extraction of the natural resources.”

Testifying before a Senate committee hearing, Kevin Cotter, general manager of Bay Aggregates, noted that some townships place unfair obstacles in the way of obtaining permits. The result is higher costs for road construction.

“We are left to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and unnecessary time pursuing permits to remove aggregate from land that we own,” Cotter says in WUOMFM report.

Opponents, including State Rep. Gary Howell (R-North Branch), claim that bill was written by and for gravel companies. He noted that nearly 100 residents attended the hearings. “If SB 431 were to pass, these individuals would effectively have no voice at all regarding gravel mining operations in their own community,” he says. “The fight is far from over, but I intend to see it through.”