P&Q Profile: ARPA’s Steve Trussell

By |  October 23, 2019
Headshot: Steve Trussell, ARPA


Steve Trussell, who became executive director of the Arizona Rock Products Association (ARPA) in 2007, has spent the last 24 years of his career in the mining industry. No two days are the same for Trussell at ARPA, where he regularly works with Arizona public officials on the policy, regulatory and community relations challenges facing the state’s aggregate producers.

How has the Arizona construction materials industry fared this year?

We have seen vast improvement from where we were in 2008 when the housing bubble burst. Things looked dismal with the housing and commercial market in addition to a transportation and infrastructure funding quagmire.

Fast-forward to today, and Maricopa County is currently the fastest-growing county in the nation for the third straight year – and Arizona is building again.

Our state budget had a billion dollar deficit when Gov. Doug Ducey (R-Arizona) took over, and [it] now has a billion dollar surplus. So there have been investments made in key transportation and military construction projects, and we anticipate more to come in the upcoming legislative session.

Where in the state is the most significant construction activity taking place?

The city of Phoenix and Maricopa County are the hot spots generally. There are cranes in the air and construction zones all around the Phoenix metropolitan area.

What are your expectations for the industry come 2020?

Arizona is definitely ripe with opportunity and is capitalizing on other states that are less business friendly. We anticipate continued growth and that Arizona will continue to emerge as a top jurisdiction for aggregate mining and construction growth.

What’s new at ARPA these days?

From left: The ARPA team, including Nicole Massarand, Brianna Kadlec, Steve Trussell and Tammy Franco. Photo courtesy of Steve Trussell

From left: The ARPA team, including Nicole Massarand, Brianna Kadlec, Steve Trussell and Tammy Franco. Photo courtesy of Steve Trussell

ARPA is thriving due to its incredible staff, board leadership and our actively supportive members. ARPA has been truly making a difference in keeping the industry viable and have embarked upon key initiatives on the public policy, regulatory and community relations front that have had a positive impact for the industry in Arizona.

Never in my 18 years at ARPA have we seen so much progress. Years of strategic planning and hard work have paid off. Recruiting and education of elected officials on both sides of the aisle who truly understand and support the rock products industry has proven to be a key to our success. That said, there is much more work to do.

In terms of state legislation, has anything within Arizona particularly captured your time and attention in 2019?

ARPA is diligently working on making sure planners understand the importance of where aggregate materials are going to come from in the future.

In 2007, the Arizona Legislature promulgated changes to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) regarding the requirements for general planning for counties and cities. The amended law (known as the Aggregate Protection Act, or APA) required that sources of aggregates be identified in general plans and that development policies be implemented to prevent conflicting land-use issues and resource sterilization.

Although planning agencies weren’t required to individually map aggregate deposits in their jurisdictions, they were encouraged to reference mapping completed by public agencies, including the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS).

In 2017, the general plans of the 50 largest cities and counties in Arizona were surveyed to determine compliance. The analysis showed slightly over 50 percent compliance with the revised statutes, even in areas where there was significant aggregate mining and serious land use conflicts between mining operations and development.

The assessment suggested that compliance with the regulations was highly correlative with the availability of AZGS mapping tools, including innovative mapping products partially funded through the STATEMAP program, and that areas lacking AZGS mapping had substantially lower compliance and greater incidents of land-use conflict and resource sterilization.

In response to this analysis, the Arizona Legislature unanimously amended the rules again in 2019 to require planning agencies to reference existing AZGS mapping or identify registered mines in their planning districts, with the AZGS acting as the central repository for mapping products and an active mines registry.

As previously mentioned, the AZGS created an valuable mapping product showing the location of construction aggregates in the Phoenix metropolitan area that was largely funded with a federal STATEMAP grant. This highly-regarded mapping product measurably increased compliance with the APA in the largest metropolitan area in Arizona, but limited STATEMAP funding prevented future mapping of other areas of Arizona.

An ARPA representative and board member, Eric Mears of Haley & Aldrich, recently presented to the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program at the United States Geologic Survey to discuss how the AZGS successfully advanced APA efforts in Arizona. The presentation recommended that the STATEMAP program capitalize on the successes of AZGS in supporting growing smarter initiatives and release additional funding for further aggregate mapping in Arizona.

ARPA promotes aggregate protection and growing smarter initiatives because land-use conflicts and resource sterilization significantly impact Arizona’s ability to develop, build and maintain critical infrastructure needed for Arizona and the nation. We look forward to working with the amazing leadership at the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association to explore what can be done at the national level regarding this matter.

How about on the regulatory side? What issues are capturing your attention?

We have a great working relationship with state agencies in Arizona. We are working together to improve permitting, timeframes, rule development and reduction of waste.

Led by the governor, key state agencies take the Arizona Management System goals of streamlining and efficiencies very seriously. The results have been most impressive and serve as a model for state government nationally.

We are also in the process of assuming state primacy of key federal programs which will also benefit Arizona business. Some examples of agency efficiencies recently achieved include:

• The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) created an online permitting platform that has dramatically improved permitting timeframes with an estimated economic benefit of $145 million each year. What’s even better, is that ADEQ funded the initiative by finding surplus funds – better service for no additional cost.

ADEQ has also accelerated their hazardous waste cleanup program. This equates to better efficiency and increased environmental protection simultaneously.

• The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) invested significant effort into public awareness, which has improved the public’s understanding and interest in water supply issues. This has been important, as it has also led to a broader understanding in the local and state government of what we need to do to address these issues.

ADWR has also taken the steps necessary to improve customer service in permitting and application review. An example of this is computing and issuance of water recharge credits, taking a process that historically could take two years and reducing that, in some instances, to mere weeks or even days.

• The Arizona State Land Department has evolved from simply managing land to realizing their critical role in economic development by improving a cumbersome commercial sales process and reducing time to attain rights of way approvals. Thoughtful planning has and will continue to benefit the aggregate industry, as it will avoid unnecessary urban interface issues.

The greatest opportunity in front of aggregate producers is …

Telling our story through engaging elected officials, agency staff and the general public through site tours. It has been a game changer. We must tell our story so someone else doesn’t tell it for us.

The greatest threat to the aggregate industry is…

We simply must do a better job of selling our industry as the exceptional career path that it is. In the past, our top issues were regulatory, project funding, land-access issues and community relations, and now it has become workforce development. ARPA has to keep working every angle to attract young talent to ensure our industry remains viable


Photo courtesy of Steve Trussell

Photo courtesy of Steve Trussell

BEST ADVICE RECEIVED – At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

SPORTS – I had the opportunity to play 15 years of football after college, but I don’t really follow sports teams. I now live vicariously through my children, who are all exceptional as musicians, football, soccer or lacrosse players and are excellent students and individuals.

HOBBIES – Hunting, mountain climbing, ice climbing and canyoneering

TRAVEL – Anywhere with my gorgeous wife. She is simply the best travel partner and my inspiration in life. It is our goal to continue to travel the world. We recently have spent time in Fiji, Norway, Costa Rica and Israel. All were great destinations.

LAST BOOK – It’s the one I keep reading and learning key life lessons from: The Bible.

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