Craig Parker, the outgoing chairman of the National Asphalt Pavement Association, on Monday pointed to the many significant changes in the association, as well as a battle to retain independence and market share as concrete associations band together.
“We saw an attempt to merge three concrete associations with NAPA and the NSSGA (National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association) to consolidate the highway material groups all in one association,” Parker told about 950 attendees from the asphalt industry during NAPA’s annual meeting in Florida.
That consolidation “would have decimated NAPA, crippled our ability to protect our market share and slowed research development of our product,” according to Parker.
“At the same time, while we were being courted and encouraged to trust these associations, we saw several attacks from the concrete industry, one in particular in Alabama,” he notes, adding that NAPA quickly authorized a project with a 90-day turnaround to refute ‘false information.”
There’s much to be done to get NAPA, the Asphalt Institute and the state asphalt associations “all on the same page,” says Parker, who is vice president of Silver Star Construction in the Oklahoma City area.
“We have to make sure we are 100 percent aligned with the marketing materials being promoted in each state. Every state might not need or use every piece of marketing and promotional material being developed by the go to market group at the same time, but there is a significant chance that every state will eventually need to use these materials to counter threats or to explore new opportunities in your area,” he stresses.
“The three concrete associations appear to have found a way to join together to and have announced a budget in excess of $10 million for marketing and research to go after our market share. This is a real threat to our market. Our three groups must become more unified and focused in our marketing efforts.”
Kudos paid and a work zone safety campaign
Parker gave accolades to others, including outgoing NAPA President Mike Acott.
“As you all know, Mike Acott did an amazing job as president of NAPA, leading our association as president for 27 years, but now he is retiring,” Parker told about attendees from the asphalt industry on Monday.
Parker noted that a general session on Tuesday would look back at Acott’s many accomplishments throughout his total of 34 years with NAPA
In its search for a new president for NAPA, five highly qualified applicants stepped forward to lead the industry, he says.
“At the conclusion of this months-long process, all of the finalists along with the selection committee met in Atlanta for a full day of presentations and final interviews. I’m thrilled with the outcome of that process and I know that in Dr. Audrey Copeland, we have found the right person to lead NAPA.”
This year, the association sold and closed on the existing NAPA building in Lanham, Maryland, which has been home to NAPA for the past 29 years. NAPA officials are now negotiating an agreement for a new building.
“We saw the rollout of the work zone safety training courses by ARTBA and NAPA,” he said of a partnership with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. “We still have a long way to go getting the procedures, devices and technology in place to best protect our most valuable resources, our employees, but these online courses do help. Please check them out.
Parker also pointed to the launch of the new “Women of Asphalt” organization and its immediate success. “For decades, our industry was dominated by males, which was easy to understand if you look back to the 1950’s and 60’s and 70’s. During those times, the construction industry as a whole, not just the asphalt industry, was considered a dirty, hard job, not suited for women.
“Thankfully, we recognize that’s not the case today and there is an entire segment of population, which is largely untapped, who are ready and willing to build a career in the asphalt industry,” says Parker. “Women of asphalt is here to help women build their career networks in the industry, and all of our companies should work with the organization to go after that largely untapped workforce.
In another arena, the industry saw an additional $20 billion in funding from the federal government for Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019. And there was, as well, a change in leadership at FHWA.
A “shining star” for NAPA was the success of Pave Xpress, which exceeded 62,000 users. Pave Instruct, an online training tool to help users learn how to get the most from Pave Xpress, also launched.
“Over the next 12 months, Pave Xpress will be updated to support metric units, the LCCA module will be improved and per road perpetual pavement design software will be embedded within the software,” Parker says.
A $1 million donation for training
The organization also received one of the largest donations ever to the NAPA Research and Education Foundation— one million dollars from Robert and Ellen Thompson to establish a new scholarship honoring the leadership of retiring NAPA President Mike Acott and the Wilson Family of Barriere Construction in Louisiana.
The Acott/Wilson scholarship will support students majoring in pavement engineering and construction management or those attending technical schools, Parker says. “In making this donation, Bob told NAPA, “I got a lot more from NAPA than I gave. Even after this check, I got more than I gave.”
Even with all this change, Parker notes that there’s much work to be done to protect, enhance and promote asphalt pavements, as well as to educate employees, specifiers and designers on safety procedures, devices and technology.
“We still have a lot of work to do educating our specifiers and designers on the best methods, mixes, and design procedures to get a truly perpetual pavement,” he says. “The generation that will be running our country in the near future is focused on sustainability. We need to help them understand that if all new full-depth pavements are designed as perpetual pavements, they can stop wasting time, money and natural resources rebuilding roads every 35 to 45 years.
And just last month, according to Parker, NAPA convened the first meeting of its workforce development team for a discovery meeting.
“This focus on workforce is near and dear to NAPA’s next chairman’s heart,” he says of John Harper, “but it is also crucial to the future of each and every one of our companies.”