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Q&A with NSSGA’s Gus Edwards (Part 1 of 2)

By |  March 25, 2013

Gus Edwards steadily climbed the ranks over 16 years between the National Stone Association (NSA) and the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), starting as NSA’s vice president of public affairs upon joining in 1997 and continuing in roles as vice president for communications and community relations, and executive vice president after NSA and the National Aggregates Association merged in 2000.

Now, in part one of a two-part interview, Edwards shares his thoughts on recent legislative developments and the future of surface transportation funding.

P&Q: How have your first few months as NSSGA president and CEO been? What was your reaction when the position suddenly became open, and later when you were approached about filling it?

GE: I was, of course, highly honored and humbled to be asked to succeed Joy Pinniger. This is a great industry filled with remarkable people and some of the best-managed companies in this country, so it’s a privilege to serve them. I like to think there’s been a fairly seamless transition between my predecessor and me.  After all, I’ve been with the association for nearly 16 years and became executive vice president in 2008, so it’s not as though I was suddenly thrown into the lion’s den.

P&Q: What would you like NSSGA to accomplish during your regime? Do you have any specific goals for 2013 or beyond?

GE: I’d like NSSGA to be successful in ensuring that America’s aggregates producers can thrive in a sustainable business climate that allows them to grow and to be competitive and innovative. We will continue to be strong advocates for the industry at the federal government level and in the federal courts when necessary. With reauthorization looming in 2014, laying the sound groundwork for a long-term national surface transportation program is a high priority in 2013.

P&Q: The absence of a comprehensive, well-funded, multi-year federal surface transportation program is a problem that lingers. What were your thoughts on the passage of the 2012 bill, MAP-21, and what impact do you expect the bill to have on the industry by the time it expires?

GE: We worked very hard for the passage of a surface transportation reauthorization bill. While we don’t believe the two-year term of MAP-21 is long enough, it does provide a modicum of certainty to the industry and maintains level funding of the program. We chronicled all of our activities to pass a bill in the three years following the expiration in 2009 of SAFETEA-LU to passage of MAP-21 in a presentation, “Rocks to Reauthorization,” on the Government Affairs page of NSSGA’s website.

Particularly noteworthy is that MAP-21 was the last real substantive bi-partisan piece of legislation passed by the 112th Congress before the election – a minor miracle in itself.

MAP-21 also is noteworthy for the historic program reforms it contains and the provisions to expedite completion of projects. Of course, we need to monitor closely implementation of the law, but we were very pleased that these reforms were included in the final bill.

Hopefully, MAP-21 will spur road and highway construction that will allow aggregates companies to put people back to work. We are seeing rays of light in the recovery, but it is spotty and there is no doubt that the national economy remains fragile.

P&Q: Some producers say two-year bills like MAP-21 are hard to rally behind because they don’t provide the funding needed to encourage them to make long-term investments. Is a multi-year bill (i.e., five years), like the one NSSGA pursued one year ago, no longer attainable considering the path the industry has been on with multiple extensions? What would it take to pass such a bill?

GE: There are those who contend that the likelihood of returning to a six-year surface transportation authorization cycle is remote, but if consensus can be reached on a new program funding mechanism, I don’t believe returning to a long-term bill is impossible. We’re encouraged that the president, the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader all have listed surface transportation as a priority.

Resource allocation based on short-term extensions is untenable, and our goal must be to strengthen the coalition supporting transportation and find a funding mechanism that will sustain the program well into the future. We recognize growing the coalition and initiating a national campaign will require money – a lot of money. But, we’re committed to the effort.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

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

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