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Matson taking the torch as NSSGA chairman

By |  February 27, 2020
Headshot: Darin Matson

Matson

Darin Matson, president and CEO at Rogers Group, becomes chairman of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) at the March 8-10 Annual Convention in Las Vegas.

With Matson slated to succeed Weldon Materials president Bob Weldon as chairman, Pit & Quarry connected with him ahead of the convention to learn about his industry outlook and get a sense of his plans for NSSGA in the year ahead.

Describe your outlook for the aggregate industry in 2020.

The aggregates industry had a solid year in 2019. U.S. Geological Survey data shows production of crushed stone and construction sand and gravel were each up year-over-year in each of the first three quarters of 2019, compared to 2018.

It’s important to note that aggregate production, although steadily improving nationwide, still has not returned to the pre-recession levels of 2007. The trend is heading in the right direction and should remain positive for 2020, but we must stay focused on policies that encourage overall U.S. growth and allow us to operate successfully.

With Congress divided along party lines and President Trump’s impeachment trial occupying much of the early part of the year, do you expect Republicans and Democrats to get along enough in the months ahead to pass any significant legislation of value to the industry? Do you expect any major piece of transportation infrastructure legislation to pass in 2020?

I am hopeful that at the time of this publication the impeachment trial has concluded and Washington has returned their focus to current and future issues impacting the economy.

Assuming that is the case, the short answer is yes. On Sept. 30, the current surface transportation authorization expires and funding for the federal government will run out. This creates a looming legislative deadline that Congress must address.

The good news is the Senate EPW (Environment & Public Works) Committee has already approved a bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization that provides a 27 percent increase in funding; and the House of Representatives recently released their principles for a transportation bill.

On the appropriations front, after approving a $1.4 trillion spending bill in December, Congress has already started its work to draft the fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills that invest in roads, bridges, tunnels and other critical infrastructure priorities. NSSGA has been actively engaging on these two priorities and strongly urging policymakers to collectively address these important issues before Oct. 1.

In addition, there is bipartisan appetite in Washington to address other issues impacting our industry. Momentum continues to build around the bipartisan ROCKS Act, which seeks to ensure communities have continued access to aggregates resources. Further, hearings are scheduled to examine a bipartisan reauthorization of essential Army Corps [of Engineers] projects that relate to waterways navigation, ecosystem restoration, flood control, hurricane impact and shoreline protection.

Work is progressing on a number of initiatives that could help address workforce challenges faced by many of our members. Of course, election politics and dysfunction are likely to play a part in these debates. That is even more reason we must continue to pressure lawmakers for action and continue to engage with Congress, through meetings, calls, letters, quarry tours and ROCKPAC.

As an aggregate producer, what would you like to see the federal government focus on this year?

Photo: Kevin Yanik

NSSGA chairman Darin Matson of Rogers Group is zeroing in on a number of legislative and regulatory issues in 2020. Photo: P&Q Staff

Certainly, the issues just discussed are a priority for us to get on Congress’ radar, including infrastructure funding, the ROCKS Act and workforce. The NSSGA has also been working with this administration on their push to modernize and streamline burdensome regulations.

We just had a huge win with the EPA’s final replacement WOTUS that was recently proposed and strongly reflects NSSGA priorities.

We have also supported other administrative efforts to streamline the environmental permitting process under NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act), which will reduce the time it takes to review permits and allow the effective flow of taxpayer dollars for infrastructure projects.

In addition, there is a drive in both the administration and Congress to improve outdated ESA (Endangered Species Act) regulations, and the association has been at the forefront of supporting these attempts.

NSSGA has worked diligently with Washington to educate lawmakers on the negative impact the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act will have on our industry. If we are unable to include absolute exemption for our industry, we would like to see lawmakers address our concerns with sound and reasonable legislation, yielding the lowest possible impact to producers and downstream users of aggregate products.

These are just a few examples of the many areas where the administration is taking a thoughtful approach to address the burdensome red tape that impacts job creators. It is imperative we continue to support and engage on these issues, so policymakers know how their work impacts our ability to supply essential building materials that allows our nation to prosper and grow.

As the Mine Safety & Health Administration’s (MSHA) ‘One MSHA’ initiative continues to unfold, the agency is undergoing a significant reorganization on its front lines. Have you noticed or felt any change through this initiative, and what’s your feeling on how these changes are being received by the industry?

There have certainly been changes that the industry feels – but it’s regional. For example, operators in the West have scarcely been affected by ‘One MSHA’ because, so far, all reorganization efforts have been east of Dallas.

But the shift of coal inspectors being cross-trained to inspect metal/nonmetal mines – that’s where the rubber meets the road. The cultures of coal and metal/nonmetal have historically each been unique, and bringing those two together has created instances where both sides must learn how to work smoothly through this blur. I think there is some apprehension about how this initiative will continue to unfold, as more crossover inspectors arrive at surface mines.

Overall, though, it has not been a major upheaval. The initiative makes sense, given the decline of coal. It’s a logical step for MSHA, and we are all adapting and remain dedicated to work with MSHA in our quest for zero injuries

What else will you be focused on as NSSGA chairman?

NSSGA is launching our new strategic plan for the next three years: Rocks Build America 2020-2023. This comes after six months of gathering feedback from our members to hear and learn what they see as the priorities for the association, the resources needed, and the ways NSSGA can continue to grow and make an impact.

I’m proud to have worked with my Executive Committee colleagues to shepherd the formulation of our new strategic plan, and I look forward to building on the leadership Bob Weldon showed in his term as chairman.

One notable priority for me within our strategic plan will be the engagement of our members in the priorities of the association. We are proud to work in the aggregates industry, which provides such value to our nation’s economy, our communities and to the men and women who make our businesses possible.

NSSGA has a robust membership that is strongest when actively engaged in the business of the association; the shaping of our policy positions; and the sharing of ideas and best practices.  Washington will continue to introduce bills that seek to address issues like climate change [and] alternative materials that can have long-lasting and, more often than not, unfavorable impacts to our industry. It is imperative that current membership engage in these and previously discussed issues.

Of equal importance, our membership must actively recruit new producers to become a part of the association. We have great potential to be tapped within our current membership, but I believe there is even more power to be gained from prospective industry members.  I look forward to realizing more of that over the coming year. We truly are stronger together.

Anything else you’d like to add?

NSSGA is not just an organization we pay to go do something for us. Yes, NSSGA is a staff working on our behalf every day in Washington. But, NSSGA is primarily the collection of businesses who operate in the aggregates industry.

We are NSSGA. The growing pride we take in doing our own respective parts in support of NSSGA’s mission will continue to elevate our effectiveness.

My year as chairman coincides with a presidential election year. It will be a year of preparation and opportunity. As candidates emerge, we will look to support champions of our industry. Those relationships begin before a candidate takes office and must continue to be nurtured year after year.

That is why it is so important for our ROCKPAC to be stronger than ever, to provide an important tool in our advocacy arsenal. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank [those] that participate in ROCKPAC. I would also be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to encourage those that have not joined our advocacy efforts to take the first step and join ROCKPAC in 2020. You won’t be disappointed.


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