So another ConExpo-Con/Agg show is in the bag. This was my ninth show, and it was by far the biggest and best yet. With 2.8 million sq. ft. of exhibit space and more than 127,000 people on-site, it really was a force of nature.
There are some who will argue that it has become perhaps too big. Yes, it is difficult to see it all in the time allotted. Las Vegas hotel rooms are climbing in price. The days of cheap food and drink are gone. It is difficult to get off the convention center grounds at the end of the day, with taxi, rideshare and monorail lines backed up forever. But that is a small price to pay every three years for the experience.
This particular show was characterized by market confidence and buying enthusiasm not seen in quite some time. We are witnessing a perfect storm. The FAST Act, passed in December 2015, has given the construction and aggregates markets a jump start; and President Trump’s $1 Trillion promise to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure has poured high-octane fuel in the tank.
The aggregates producers I spoke with at the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association convention, and the manufacturers I met with at the show are enthusiastic about the future. And with good reason.
While the aggregates industry looks like a very promising place to be right now, this is no time to take our foot off the gas. There is a still a lot of blocking and tackling to be done.
There were some disturbing signs right after the show, with the White House 2018 proposed budget indicating cuts to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget, as well as an end to the popular TIGER competitive grant program; the elimination of the New & Small Starts transit construction program; and the termination of funding for long-distance passenger rail funding, among other notable cuts.
Transportation advocates in Congress are expected to push back hard against these cuts, however it does serve as a warning that there are going to be a few potholes in the road ahead. But that should not dampen the enthusiasm so evident at ConExpo-Con/Agg.
Reminds me of what many of the baseball teams are saying as Spring Training ends and the regular season begins: “I like our chances this season.”