The Rock Products Interview: Mark Helm

As the CEO of Dolese Bros. Co. Takes Over as Chairman of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, He Talks About Infrastructure, Young Leaders and the Best Business Advice He Ever Received.

As you begin your term as chairman of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), what is the number-one thing you would like to accomplish? What are your plans to build on the work of your predecessor?

A good quarry plan lets us efficiently get the most rock out of each operation. A good management plan of engagement can motivate your team to perform well. So what we’ve developed is a great plan for this industry and association, and I am excited to be the first chairman to execute the Rocks Build America 2020 plan.

We each want to grow our companies, but I believe we have a unique opportunity to help grow our industry over the next year if we’re willing to get involved in our association. NSSGA has a fresh governance structure that affords many ways to get involved. There are committees for just about everyone with any kind of interest or expertise.

So much of what we have accomplished as a proactive member organization and what we’ve set as our goals for the future are the result of Hal Williford’s leadership, and I cannot thank him enough for his dedication over the last year. As chairman of NSSGA, Hal continually stepped up to lead our industry and association through our previous three-year strategic plan, and he really emphasized the importance of bringing small and mid-size quarries into our membership. That is something I plan on continuing in my term, as well.

It’s a whole new ballgame in Washington. How can the aggregates industry maximize this opportunity?

President Trump is very eager to invest in our country’s infrastructure and streamline the regulatory process that governs how we produce aggregates. This is a crucial time for our industry to talk about those public policy and regulatory issues with our members of Congress. We need to build support for our issues because if we don’t talk about them, nobody else will!

 We can build relationships with the people that we elect and send to Congress at home – when they come to visit their districts and in Washington, D.C. To that point, we want absolutely everyone in the aggregates industry to join us in Washington this September for the Legislative and Policy Forum/Fall Board Meeting. Not only will NSSGA make it easy for anyone at any company to talk with their members of Congress and ask for their support of our industry, we are also taking advantage of the special venues and opportunities that our nation’s capital gives us to plan some exclusive, unique and memorable events.

What should aggregates producers do to prepare for an expanding market?

We know that it can be difficult to bring people into the industry, but NSSGA has a tool to help producers find new employees. The NSSGA Jobs Board at can connect companies to qualified job seekers, and with more people, operations can look to produce more aggregates.

Why is national association membership important to business success?

I remember my early interactions with the National Stone Association and the National Aggregates Association of going to different operations, attending automation conferences and other meetings.  Those events helped me learn even more about the industry and what was possible in our quarries. I made good contacts over the years, learned more about the industry, but I also learned what regulators and politicians were doing to affect the industry.

Those early experiences showed me that it is important to have people involved in the political and regulatory fight. We need to have a voice early in the process of forming laws and regulations. Federal laws and regulations impact everyone’s business. NSSGA is our watchdog in D.C. by protecting and safeguarding our industry.

Talk about the importance of the Young Leaders Group to NSSGA. Why is this group critical to future growth?

Young Leaders is dedicated to bringing future innovators together with CEOs and industry magnates to develop the next generation of exceptional executives. Members of Young Leaders also have a voice in the association’s direction. Last year, the NSSGA board of directors approved a new structure that relies on the input and participation from NSSGA’s young core of up-and-coming leaders.

The Annual Meeting brings together some of the most successful and inspiring industry leaders to relate their personal stories and advice to the next generation. Each year, attendees say that the presentations from executives of aggregates businesses are the true highlight of the Annual Meeting – offering unprecedented access and lessons from some of the most successful businesspeople in the industry.

ConExpo-Con/Agg was huge this year. How can you channel that energy into next year’s AGG1 show?

The Annual Convention and AGG1 Academy & Expo has broken attendance records each of the last two years, in Baltimore and Nashville. As of April, 75 percent of the available exhibit hall space has been sold, so we’re looking forward to the biggest and best yet in Houston from March 5-8, 2018.

We are going to offer more quality education programs for novices and industry veterans alike.

Members tell us that they come to the Annual Convention and AGG1 Academy & Expo specifically to see and purchase the most advanced equipment, technology and services specifically for aggregates operations. We’re thrilled about this growing response and we are looking forward to a great event in Houston next year.

What role can NSSGA play to help aggregates producers take a quantum leap in using new equipment, the latest technology and actionable data?

NSSGA proudly offers aggregates-specific educational programs to members. Our monthly webinars continue to grow in popularity, and let anyone from any operation any place in the country hone their skills or learn something new. We also offer industry-leading education programs at our Annual Convention and AGG1 Academy & Expo.

Also, we make it easy for producers to connect with the companies that manufacture quarrying equipment and businesses that provide services that make it safer and easier to produce aggregates. Our M&S buyers’ guide highlights the companies and services available to NSSGA members in one easy place

What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?

The things that you prioritize as a leader are the things that your employees prioritize, and the most important thing we do every day as leaders is to prioritize the safety of our employees.

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