First Word: Graduation daze

Life events have a way of reminding us of how rapidly time passes. My first child – my little girl – is leaving home for college. Sometime while I was away attending a trade show or visiting customers, Adrienne became a young woman. She graduates from high school this month and 10 days later will enroll in summer school at a college at the other end of the state. She’s chosen to study civil engineering. Adrienne laughs when asked about choosing between a career in health care (her mother’s profession) and (perhaps) construction. I reminded her that if she’s successful, she might even qualify to become a subscriber to this magazine one day. Whatever she ultimately decides to do, she has made her daddy proud.

Sending my first born off to college makes me suddenly ponder the term “middle-aged.” I’m older. No doubt about that. But somehow, “middle-aged” doesn’t seem to be the least bit accurate in terms of how I feel and how I view life. Maybe the term “two-thirds aged” is a better fit for me as I watch Adrienne’s excitement build as her graduation day draws near.

But graduating high school seniors aren’t the only alums I’m thinking about these days. It was with great pride that in March, our magazine, along with our partners, Caterpillar and Wacker, recognized another class of finalists for the 2005 Contractor of the Year program in Las Vegas. Duke Long, owner of Interstate Sawing in West Bend, Wisconsin, was chosen as this year’s winner (see the cover story in this issue), but as has been the case for five years now, all twelve of the construction firms chosen as finalists are proven winners. Nothing causes me to realize what a special industry we are fortunate to work in more than meeting with and listening to a group of construction professionals who obviously love what they do. Their passion to do each and every job to the best of their ability, to treat their customers as they themselves would like to be treated and to earn the respect of their customers, suppliers and even their competitors, are common qualities that define each of these contractors. I say it every year: This chance to recognize the brightest and best in the construction industry is one of the greatest joys of my job – and it just gets better and better.

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With the construction season beginning in earnest nationwide, let’s all remember how fortunate we are. Sure, we’re expecting delays by manufacturers and dealers as a result of the huge demand for new equipment. The cost of fuel is skyrocketing. And every day is a test in construction’s always-competitive marketplace. But these problems pale in comparison to the recessionary times many of us suffered through just a few short years ago.

Seeing my daughter graduate is another reminder that summer vacation is beginning. That means more and more vehicles will be traveling our nation’s highways. With that in mind, be sure to respect the lives of all of those construction workers who will be laboring so precariously close to moving traffic. Slowing down through work zones might save you a costly speeding ticket, but more importantly, will help save a life. If that sounds like “parent-talk,” as my children love to say, remember that one day you – and those workers – may be lucky enough to be referred to as two-thirds aged…