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Making Noise in Illinois

illinois-road-mapMarch 30, 2011 – Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois isn’t making many friends in the business community these days. Companies in that state now have to pay a 7 percent corporate tax rate for the next four years, up from the previous 4.8 percent. And Illinois businesses are already subject to a 2.5 percent surcharge. Caterpillar Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman reportedly told Quinn in a March 21 letter that at least four other states had approached the company about relocating since the tax passed. Would Caterpillar really consider moving? Don’t rule it out. After all, they have switched states before, starting out in California before ending up in Illinois. The Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers is also up in arms over the Governor’s proposed FY 2012 transportation budget. An extremely troubling part of thisproposal is the planned diversion of $85.5 million from the Road Fund to pay operating subsidies for transit and rail (which have traditionally and appropriately been paid from General Revenue Funds). Although the impact ofthis new diversion may appear small when compared to Illinois’ multi-billion-dollar budget problems, the association’s position on this issue is clear: this new Road Fund diversion would have an extremely negative impact on the state’s multi-year road program. Stay tuned for more on the budget battles unfolding in Illinois.

LaHood Attends the Show

raylahoodMarch 25, 2011 – Through Thursday, more than 117,000 people have attended ConExpo-Con/Agg, and the mood here at the show, where I have been blogging live all week, has been overwhelmingly positive. Of special note was U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood's visit to the show, and his assessment that a new highway transportation bill would be pushed through Congress before the August recess, He said that everyone in government is aware of the importance of getting a bill passed to trigger infrastructure investment and boost the nation’s economic recovery for the long term. “A transportation bill is a jobs bill. It puts people to work,” the Secretary said. “We want a six-year bill passed this year. We hope we can get it done by August. That’s our goal.”

Panel: The Need is Urgent

nssgaMarch 24, 2011 – I am blogging live this week from the ConExpo-Con/Agg show in Las Vegas. The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association is also holding its annual convention in Las Vegas to coincide with the show. At the group's Board of Director's meeting. I was the only aggregates industry editor on-hand to cover the action, as an all-star panel of experts was convened to illustrate the critically important issue of highway funding. Dennis Slater of AEM, Stephen Sandherr of ARTBA and other executives focused on the strategic difficulties of navigating the new Washington D.C. terrain, as well the equally daunting challenges of a Highway Trust Fund that is dwindling and the dramatic need for road and bridge repair. The take-away message was one of urgency, as the panel rallied NSSGA members to run a full-court press on their elected representatives to get a new highway bill passed soon.

Cummins introduces QSL9

CumminsMarch 22, 2011 – I am blogging live from Las Vegas, at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2011. Cummins Inc. today revealed the latest generation of the QSL9 engine, capable of meeting near-zero emissions levels. This 9-liter engine achieves 2014 EPA Tier 4 Final and EU Stage IV standards with an ultra-clean aftertreatment system, combining the Cummins Compact Catalyst with Selective Catalytic Reduction (CCC-SCR). With up to 400-hp (298 kW) output, the QSL9 makes no performance compromises in order to meet near-zero emissions, retaining the higher output and faster engine response demonstrated by the Tier 4 Interim QSL9. Fuel efficiency at Tier 4 Final will be further improved over that achieved for the Tier 4 Interim engine.The CCC-SCR ultra-clean aftertreatment system is specifically configured to provide a more compact and flexible equipment installation for Tier 4 Final. The Cummins Compact Catalyst, previously used for ratings below 174 hp (130 kW), is scaled-up in size for the 9-liter platform. Combined with SCR, the aftertreatment system achieves near-zero emissions with fully passive, flow-through operation. In addition to the QSL9, the CCC-SCR system will be utilized by the QSB6.7, QSB4.5 and QSB3.3 engines to offer a common aftertreatment solution from 75 hp to 400 hp (56 kW to 298 kW). The scalability of the CCC-SCR system enables sizing to be configured for specific power outputs across the 3.3-liter to 9-liter engine range.

Safety on the March in March

MulzerMarch 21, 2011 – I am blogging live from Las Vegas, in the run-up to ConExpo-Con/Agg 2011. If you haven't packed yet, bring a jacket! The forecast has dropped by 10 degrees, and today is extremely windy. Nice weather if you want to fly a kite, lousy if you want to walk around the Gold Lot. One of things I am going to be looking at out here are products and services related to safety. However Mulzer Crushed Stone might not need our advice. I just learned that 13 Mulzer Crushed Stone, Inc., plants and quarries were awarded the prestigious Gold “Excellence in Mining” (E.I.M.) Award at the Annual Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association (IMAA) Winter Workshop in Carmel, Ind. E.I.M. awards are presented each year to IMAA producer member companies that excel in the following categories: Environmental Programs, Safety Programs, Employee and Community Relations. These awards are sponsored by the IMAA Public Information and Education (P.I.E.) Committee to promote pride in the programs at local plants and quarries. Congratulations to Mulzer Stone.