Looking back on how old predictions panned out and looking forward to a new chapter.
I have been up all night, tossing and turning, searching for the right words, and they couldn’t be simpler: thank you.
This marks my last column for The Concrete Producer, which ceases publication as a stand-alone title with this last edition of the newsletter. I am told I have been the longest-serving contributing editor, with over 13 years of continuous contributions to this publication. First, it was a monthly column for the print publication which slowly wound down and ceased publication a couple of years ago. That led to regular columns twice a month for the digital newsletter and, of course, the online magazine; I have lost track of how many columns I wrote in total over the years, but it’s close to 150.
It was challenging at times to find topics that I felt our readership would be interested in. My job was to write about the business side of the industry, avoiding the many technical topics that dominated the publication through those years, and bring a perspective of our industry as a business, rather than an operation.
I felt all along that understanding the winds of our economy, consumer sentiment, and our society had a direct relationship of the financial health of this industry. Nothing could have been truer when the ominous, dark clouds and winds rolled in that buffeted the industry in 2007 and 2008, followed by the financial crisis that chopped 200 million cubic yards of production out of this industry by 2010. Throughout those years, I wrote about all that I felt was relevant to the times we were in, and always wrote with a sense of optimism about our industry’s future.
I went back to my very first column, where we looked into a crystal ball as a firm and gave our readers some predictions about the future. In that very first column, I used the format of the then-wildly-popular “Top Ten” that appeared nightly on the David Letterman Show in those days, and created our firm’s own top thoughts about the future (although we only got to eight). Interestingly, most came true, some are still true today, and one we missed by a country mile. Here they are again:
- Will cement shortages will be short-lived, or will they continue to haunt us?
- Total concrete volume in the U.S. could reach 500 million cubic yards by 2010, up from 430 million cubic yards in 2004
- Consolidation will continue, and in a big way
- HR will continue to be a challenge
- More sophisticated marketing will play a key role in growth
- Mixers will continue to become more sophisticated
- Permitting and compliance will become more daunting than ever
- Technology will continue to be the key driver in efficiency improvements
It turns out that the first two were misses; cement shortages of the era were short-lived, and turned into a giant surplus as the Great Recession gripped our industry. And, of course, we missed the prediction on concrete volume by a country mile, and so did everyone else. By 2010, volumes had plunged to 257 million cubic yards, a precipitous drop from 458 million in 2005 that inflicted untold pain and suffering on our industry, both financially and in terms of severe job losses. But interestingly, the rest still hold true today: in 13 years, not much has changed. And today, I’m still a cheerleader for the industry, as I maintain my wild optimism for the future of America’s concrete producer.
Starting next week, this column will start appearing in the popular digital newsletter called Concrete Construction. If you don’t receive it, click here to subscribe. I invite all of you who read this newsletter to transition to our new digital publication platform, where I will continue to contribute my thoughts twice a month.
I want to close by extending a profound thanks to all the wonderful people at Hanley Wood who have supported me all these years, and in particular, the five different editors I had the honor to write for during that time. Each and every one of them was an editorial inspiration to me; sitting down at my computer before I began each column was always a challenge for me, as I wanted to give them my best. My profound thanks goes out to all of them for their guidance and steady hands all these years.
So in the famous words of Johnny Carson, “We’ll be right back…” See you in two weeks, in a brand new place.
About the Author
Pierre G. Villere has been a contributing editor for The Concrete Producer for over a decade, and serves as the President and Senior Managing Partner of Allen-Villere Partners, an investment banking firm with a national practice in the construction materials industry. He has a career spanning more than four decades, and volunteers his time to educating the industry through his regular articles and presentations. Contact Pierre via email.