Looking ahead to 2021 for the aggregate industry

By |  August 31, 2020


Was there a moment that made you realize 2020 might not be a typical year?

I think back to March 11. I vividly remember walking through the Venetian after a day at ConExpo-Con/Agg when my phone blew up with texts about the NBA suspending its season. If you hadn’t realized it before that moment, the announcement was one major indicator that the world was headed somewhere that it had not been in our lifetimes.

We all surely remember the uncertainty that followed that period and lingered for weeks, months and, in some cases, still exists. I remember thinking that 2020 might spiral out of control for the aggregate industry, that we might be in for a really rough year.

Fortunately, aggregate producers have hung on. The industry’s essential status truly got us this far, and producers will likely finish 2020 strong. Now, my mind is shifting to 2021 and wondering how next year’s story will be written.

Reflecting and looking ahead

Photo: P&Q Staff

A number of factors will dictate how next year plays out in the aggregate industry. Photo: P&Q Staff

I’m not ready to make a prediction about 2021, largely because I was wrong about how 2020 would play out after the pandemic unfolded. Before the industry was deemed essential, I lost sight of the notion that producers brought significant backlogs into this year. Those sustained producers through this summer, and some continue to churn through them.

But producers will have burned through backlogs by next spring, begging the question of where the next projects demanding big-time aggregate will come from. The private sector should provide some life for producers, but I still have questions.

I believe we’ll learn sooner than later how state Departments of Transportation (DOT) around the country plan to approach 2021. Their revenues were limited this year, and it seems unlikely that the federal government will inject a massive amount of funding to address state DOT shortfalls.

Not to be forgotten is November’s presidential election, which will set a trajectory for 2021 and beyond for our industry. That one outcome will determine so many next moves, and it will put our confidence as an industry in two dramatically different places.

Still, 2020 proved that producers can get crafty to be profitable. They dramatically tightened up their spending, and that’s having an impact on their success this year.

For the moment, at least, producers should celebrate the year they’ve had thus far. 2020 has been extremely rough for so many industries, but ours is plowing through with a good amount of success. Who’s to say 2021 can’t be the same?

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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