Part 1: Catching up with Bond Construction’s Karen Hubacz-Kiley

By |  December 1, 2020


With 2021 nearing, Bond Construction Corp. vice president Karen Hubacz-Kiley paid P&Q a visit to share her thoughts on the state of U.S. infrastructure, the industry challenges overcome in 2020, and what producers might face in the new year. The content presented here represents Part 1 of a two-part interview with Hubacz-Kiley. Part 2 is available here.

The aggregate industry faced daunting challenges throughout 2020. What’s it like to see the industry continuously overcome obstacles?

Well, you have to. I think a lot of it is that we’ve been so over-regulated for so long that we’re just exceptionally diligent. We figure it out, we figure out how to work with it, and we continue to move.

What are our other options? There isn’t one. So we’re really good at thinking on our feet, making quick decisions and doing what we have to. We’ve had no other option – ever. 

It seems like many companies took time this year to internally reflect and reassess their business going forward. How do you think this helps the industry moving forward?

We don’t know what’s going to go on. Everybody is traumatized by this. Suddenly, every winter are [businesses] going to say: ‘We have influenza, everybody has to wear a mask.’ All of us are afraid of what’s coming, so we’re just trying to prepare so that if something else does come along that we’re much more ready than we were for this.

Looking ahead to the new year, what would it mean for your company and the industry as a whole if a federal infrastructure bill came to fruition?

That would be a great thing if they could get together and do something. For us, being a smaller producer, I like it when the big guys are busy because if they’re busy, then it’s the trickle-down effect to us. We’re getting their crumbs, which feeds us exceptionally well. Infrastructure bills [and] big things like that are so vitally important because, if the big guys are busy, then everybody is busy.

Do you have any concerns or thoughts on infrastructure funding being ‘dried up’ after coronavirus relief bills?

I think an infrastructure bill is certainly doable. They need to focus specifically on putting things in the infrastructure bill, or another COVID-19 bill, that are going to help people get through this. It needs to be pretty bare-bones; it needs to [provide] adequate funding, but not pad additional things to bail out pension plans or for the Kennedy Center. It truly needs to be just cut and dry. This is truly what the people need.

Karen Hubacz-Kiley speaks on MSHA at P&Q roundtable

Bond Construction Corp.’s Karen Hubacz-Kiley, pictured here at the 2020 Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference, says 2020 was a ‘record-breaking’ year for her company. Photo: PamElla Lee Photography

Hospitality, the restaurants – all of those – they’re starving to death. They’re closing everything up. My heart goes out to all of them. We do takeout more often now than what we did just to show support for some of our local restaurants. Every time you go there and do a takeout, they’re like ‘thank you so much’ because you just helped feed their family.

With states seeing depleted revenues in 2020, how does that get remedied in 2021?

I don’t know. For our local town, I’m the chair of our finance committee, so even as far as just what our budgets are, we don’t know how much money we’re going to get from the state.

We’ve gone to the department heads and asked them to cut their budgets to [the] bare minimum. We’re not purchasing new equipment for the highway departments or the police departments. We’re like: ‘We need to hold.’ Come May or June, once we know fiscally what we’re going to be getting [and] if we have additional money, we’ll do our purchases then.

I think it’s kind of the same now. I don’t know how the states are truly going to make up what they’ve lost. How do you make up gas tax when everybody stays home and nobody bought the fuel? I don’t know how that’s honestly going to be made up, if it ever could be.

[Federal investment] may be [a solution], but then you’re increasing the deficit of the government, which is almost indefinite at this point. So, I don’t know.

As we close out the year, what was 2020 like for Bond Construction?

It is [a record-breaking year]. It’s a supply-and-demand thing. We ended up probably going up [with] some of our products 10 percent.

As negative as everything was [and] is, for us there was some really good stuff, too.

Editor’s note: Bond Construction’s Karen Hubacz-Kiley contributed periodically to P&Q in 2020 through the magazine’s Road to Recovery series. Read Hubacz-Kiley’s July 2020 commentary on the aggregate industry’s essential status here, as well as her pre-2020 election assessment here.

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