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P&Q Profile: Texas Aggregates & Concrete Association’s Josh Leftwich

By |  September 23, 2020

As the new president and CEO of the Texas Aggregates & Concrete Association (TACA), Josh Leftwich is a well-known figure to producers and contractors throughout the Lone Star State. While Texas producers have been busy during the pandemic, Leftwich offers a look at the challenges and opportunities in the months ahead.

TACA's Josh Leftwich

Leftwich

What has your experience working in the aggregate industry been like?

I’ve been in not only the aggregate industry, but the mining industry, most of my career. I started off in a career doing consulting work for mining companies.

Over the last 14 years, I worked in the uranium mining industry in the Texas, Wyoming and Nebraska areas, and then transferred over to the more specific type of aggregate industry; mining, concrete and that type of world.

I’ve had a broad experience being in the energy sector and then the construction aggregate materials sector, too.

Tell us about your experience at Knife River. What sort of projects did you work on? What was a typical workday like there?

At Knife River, there were a few different areas underneath my purview: environmental, health and safety manager and business development throughout Texas for Knife River. Every day was a new day of challenges depending on what new thing popped up or what fire came up.

It was very diverse. We covered a lot of Texas [and] were involved in a good bit of acquisition-type work. It was really busy. Every day was a great day, and Knife River was a great company to work for.

One of the great things about Knife River was they fully supported TACA and gave me the opportunity to be involved with TACA as part of my role with Knife River. That’s where a lot of my familiarity and involvement with TACA started. I had a great boss there who really allowed me to make the time and effort and put in the resources necessary to be part of this organization.

What drew you to the opportunity at TACA?

Because I was so involved with TACA, it was an easy transfer for me to come into this role. I was already on the board, I was on the executive committee, I chaired our government relations committee, [and] I was involved with the environmental relations committee. I already spent a lot of my time and was involved in the organization, and I already appreciated what it does for the members and all the work that goes into events and advocacy for our industry.

It was an easy transfer, and I already felt like I was a member of TACA because [with] everyone I spoke to, I was either trying to get them to become members, recruit them or working with TACA on issues throughout the state already. I was a very strong advocate for TACA with Knife River, so it was an easy role to come into. I was excited to have the opportunity to be in this role and work for the industry at this level.

What do you hope to achieve at TACA?

One of the big things I’d like to see with TACA is outreach with our advocacy and education programs and really get down into reaching out to more of our members’ employees at a grassroots level of involvement. That was always one of our challenges with being an association: how to reach that next line of people in companies, and how to do that effectively. We’re trying to figure out the best way of doing that with technology and other projects that we have coming up.

In the short term, it’s just trying to get through this time during COVID, and trying to figure out how the association works in this time; having to re-program most of our routine – things that we’ve always had come up with new or different ideas for our membership in this time because it’s not the same script that once was. It’s kind of a whole new world at this point, to some extent. We have our base committees and our base goals, but how we do those things is kind of a new world.

How are TACA members faring this year? What are their most pressing concerns and how are you helping them out?

We were considered an essential business [during the pandemic], so I think most of our members have been staying busy. They haven’t seen a major drop-off in work here in Texas, and they continue with projects and those types of things. One of the things they’re worried about is the future of projects and whether they’re going to continue funding for public and private projects – things like that. The overall funding for horizontal construction by TxDOT (the Texas Department of Transportation) is a concern. How that’s going to fare in this economic environment with lower tax revenues and the overall impact of oil and gas commodities can have a significant impact on the state.

There are a lot of unknowns going forward, and we’re all trying to figure out how to navigate these waters. The main thing is to know that the members have a place to go for support through the legislature or different issues that are coming up. So we’re really strong on advocating for our members that don’t have the resources to do those type of things. We can go work with the legislature or other state agencies on issues that may arise or work proactively to help our industry. I think it’s going to be ever-important moving forward to be there for our members and be able to support them in different ways.

TACAFrom a funding and infrastructure perspective, if a federal infrastructure bill were to pass, how would that affect your members and the industry as a whole?

From a business standpoint, it would just be a backdrop to our state funding. Thankfully, we already have strong infrastructure funding in place with our Prop 1 and Prop 7 funding. But with the tax revenues down and the state revenues down, any type of federal dollars coming in would just be a backstop to some of that funding.

Does TACA have anything exciting on tap for the remainder of 2020, or even 2021?

[It] seems like things are starting to get back to some type of normalcy with schools reopening and businesses expanding capacity, so I have cautious optimism that things will get back to some kind of normalcy and it will be more routine of what we were doing before.

I think the workplace environment is going to be forever changed. It’s not going to revert back to pre-COVID times any time soon. That’s going to be an interesting issue to watch as that comes up, just to see how commercial real estate is going to react.

I think the housing industry is going to be strong still with people wanting to be in houses and have a place that they can properly social distance/quarantine or stay home or work from home. So if that ever happened in a major way again, they’d have a place to spread out and be better equipped to do so. I think the housing industry is going to continue to be strong. It’s going to be a shift in dynamics going forward, but I’m hoping we’ll find any normalcies in it.

It sounds like you’re expecting a mixed bag by market segment there. Is that how you see it?

I think so, just based on what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing around the state right now. With the oil and gas energy industry being down right now, that’s going to affect certain regions of Texas differently. That’s a major impact to Texas and for funding sources and the growth of Texas, so that will play in, too.

Overall, there will still be continued growth for Texas. You hear staggering numbers of 1,000 people or 1,400 people moving into Texas every day. To support that growth, our association and our members are going to be the ones providing the resources to do that.

I was at a hotel [in early August], and I met three people who were all from out of state and looking for houses in the Austin area. It was very interesting to talk to these people. Texas is a great place to live, and there’s good resources here to support growth and infrastructure.

What message would you like to share with those who are perhaps unfamiliar with TACA or yourself?

There are a lot of different components to TACA, and I don’t know if everybody realizes what our association does. We don’t do just advocacy work. We have our Emerging Leaders program where member companies enroll up-and-coming rising stars from people’s companies in a training program to further develop our members’ employees into management roles or other leadership-type roles. We have an education group; we have a teacher workshop in the summertime where we educate them on the aggregate, concrete and cement production industry, too. That’s a great outreach program.

There are a lot of different facets of what we do, and our organization is very diverse. We have a specification committee, where we work on creating specs for our industry and advocating for specifications with municipalities. We have a lot of smart people, and our members are great about volunteering their time and resources to our association. Our members have a lot of community outreach programs they do. During COVID, it’s been great to hear the stories from our members of what they’ve done for their employees, for the communities where they work, and how they’ve reached them. We love to support our members and recognize them.

What are the benefits of community outreach for you, your association and the industry as a whole?

A lot of our employees and our membership [are] very involved in their communities already. They get their companies involved, and it makes [the community] aware of what their companies are doing in the town; makes them aware that they are there to provide resources to those communities – whether it’s aggregate for road, concrete for roads or all those type of resources that are needed to keep a community going. Most people don’t realize where those things come from. Being involved in the community allows them to explain where [materials] come from and educate them on our industry and how those items are needed.

A big thing is that a lot of these materials are locally sourced and produced. If they aren’t locally sourced and produced, they’re going to cost a lot more to get. So letting them know that [the materials] are there and readily available is a big part of community.

In growing towns, you can go see they have locally-sourced, readily-available materials to develop that growth and to put into those resources or projects that are needed. You talk to the average person, and they don’t know the difference between concrete and cement. Just to get those things out there is a big deal. When people see that it costs $3 or $4 million to build a small part of their road, they don’t understand why it costs so much and what goes into that. It helps to educate them about the materials that are needed.


FIVE THINGS

FIRST JOB – Working for an environmental consulting company in New Mexico

BEST ADVICE RECEIVED – It’s all about who you know. Your network is very important. Treat everybody with respect, and don’t burn bridges

HOBBIES – Lake or fishing on the coast, out on the family

TRAVEL – Italy

SPORTS – Texas A&M Aggies


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