ROCK PRODUCTS TALKS TO THE 2014 CHAIRMAN OF NSSGA ABOUT THE NEW STRATEGIC PLAN, REAUTHORIZATION AND THE BEST ADVICE HE EVER RECEIVED.
By Mark S. Kuhar
As you begin your term at the helm of NSSGA, what is the number-one thing you would like to accomplish?
I am ready to fight the good fight for our industry. We will need all the might we can muster for the crucial legislative and regulatory battles ahead, not the least of which is getting Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation bill and resolving the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
What are your plans to build on the work of your predecessor?
Let me first state that I believe Ward Nye of Martin Marietta Materials did a phenomenal job this past year as chairman of the association. His vision was to build bridges to the future in many areas of the association, which he did. My hope is to continue extending those bridges to other areas and widening those that were built. The one overriding focus this year will be the implementation of our new Rocks Build America strategic plan. That will become the building blocks of the association for the years ahead.
How will you begin to implement NSSGA’s new strategic plan?
I intend to make it a priority for the board of directors to pursue the grassroots, PAC, communications and membership goals outlined in the plan. The goals are aggressive, but also realistically achievable if we give NSSGA President Mike Johnson and the NSSGA staff the right support. Many of the conversations that need to happen to recruit grassroots contacts, grow the PAC, and make sure that everyone, current members and future members alike, understand the strong value proposition of being involved with NSSGA need to be peer-to-peer conversations between those of us who have the privilege of being part of this great industry.
Communications are an important component of the new strategic plan. How can NSSGA grow its national communications efforts?
We’ll begin building a communications department unlike NSSGA has ever had before starting with the hire of a vice president of communications who will report directly to Mike and serve as an integral member of the senior management team to advance the association’s advocacy agenda. That person will be responsible for leading the association’s internal and external communications strategy, first by building a results-driven communications team, then by growing relationships with reporters and key influencers who cover the issues we care about the most and securing top-tier coverage.
Our goal is to be the “go to” source for information about this industry. We need to be able to drive a national dialogue that will change the positions of public policy makers. That new communications component will enable us to focus in on how we deliver our messages and create a value proposition that will resonate with large members and small members alike.
What can aggregates producers do at the grassroots level to move transportation funding legislation through Congress?
MAP-21 expires Sept. 30 and the Highway Trust Fund is on track to become insolvent sometime in July, so the debate on the future of surface transportation in the 21st century will be the most important one involving highway policy we have seen since 1956, when Congress established the Interstate Highway System.
We know grassroots mobilization is the most effective way to accomplish legislative goals and NSSGA established NSSGA’s Aggregates in Action (A2) grassroots program with that in mind. Right now we are focusing on the countdown to reauthorization and we have a number of useful tools on our website.
A great resource is NSSGA’s Reauthorization Roadmap to help educate on what is at stake for the aggregates industry, and to provide ideas for involvement including contacting congressional leaders, joining coalitions, developing a company’s grassroots program and engaging state associations.
Other tools available are NSSGA’s Recommendations for Reauthorization and the Materials Group’s Principles for Reauthorization. Each are one-page informational fact sheets that can be used as “leave behinds” with members of Congress and congressional staff.
Of course, we encourage everyone to participate in the upcoming Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In and Rally for Roads set for June 10-11 in Washington, D.C. Another fly-in is scheduled Sept. 9-10. This is the Materials Group Fly-In hosted by NAPA and NSSGA.
I personally favor hosting facility tours. Facility tours are a great way for lawmakers to understand the transportation construction industry and the importance of one’s company in the community. Visits to local operations give lawmakers the opportunity to meet large numbers of their constituents – which they always welcome – and they can see firsthand how current issues affect a company’s operations.
How important is state and national association membership to business success?
I’m glad you asked this question, because I want to emphasize something Mike addressed at our Annual Convention in March. We’re already ramping up our participation in state meetings and intend to work better than ever with the state associations to spread the message of the value we bring to their members, especially to those small companies who don’t know enough about what we do.
We do not intend to be a substitute, but rather a complement to the state associations who understand the local issues of their statewide industry and have good working relationships with their legislature. NSSGA works at the federal level of government to grow and safeguard the aggregates industry nationwide. NSSGA works hand-in-glove with hundreds of its members, just as we should with state aggregates associations to achieve national policy objectives.
But back to your question – membership in a national or state association offers many benefits, the greatest of which are the chance to influence legislation and the ability to network with fellow professionals and industry leaders. Trade association membership keeps business owners current on important, ever-changing issues, trends and legislation and puts them squarely in the middle of what’s going on.
Typical benefits include education/professional development, information, research and forums (face-to-face or virtual) to discuss common problems and solutions. Membership also provides opportunities to take leadership roles within associations; discounted subscriptions to newsletters and magazines; access to seminars, conferences and association events; and access to members-only offers and resources.
But – as we always remind our members – that just paying annual dues isn’t enough to reap the advantages of association membership. You must also make an investment of time and effort in association activities and become involved. What you get out of association membership is directly related to what you put in.
What moves has your company made to use technology to your advantage?
At New Enterprise we are always looking to see what technology we can use to increase employee safety, improve efficiencies and increase customer satisfaction. We are using more video cameras in safety and production areas. Our employees are more connected to each other, as well as to our customers, and access to our internal systems is greater than it has ever been. Many products that we purchase today have technological enhancements of their own that help us do all of the above better, too.
What would you like to see different at next year’s AGG1 show?
I don’t know if we want to see anything “different” for next year’s AGG1. As we arrange future shows and select new sites, we will continue to plan for additional growth not only in floor space and attendance, but also in our educational offerings.
Currently, we are planning to survey our members on the educational components we deliver to make certain they’re meeting the needs of this industry. By doing that, we’ll drive increased participation in that important area. We’ve also built upon the AGG1 brand by expanding our educational offerings outside of the physical AGG1 show by moving into a virtual environment with our AGG1 Online webinar series, which launched in September 2013.
AGG1 Online is a series of monthly webinars consisting of both popular sessions from past AGG1 Academies and brand-new content showcasing the latest technologies, innovations and best practices. These webinars do not replace our AGG1 seminars, but we recognize an educational need for those companies who cannot send multiple staff to an on-site AGG1 Academy & Expo. AGG1 Online webinars are a convenient way to build a company’s team’s knowledge base throughout the year without the time and expense of traveling.
As I said, we’ll continue to grow the trade show piece, look for more sponsorship opportunities and have a greater exposition every year where we can drive increased revenue.
What’s the best piece of business advice anyone ever gave you?
One of the best pieces of advice I heard was, “You will never be great on your own; you need to be able to work with people.” I believe that this piece of advice applies both in personal and business situations. While one person may make a huge difference in a plan, it rarely is done without the help or support of others. In business, every employee has a job and without everyone doing their job, the job does not get done. I am proud of our industry and the fact that we help build America from the ground up.