Reflecting on 2020 at the Pit & Quarry Roundtable (Part 1)

By |  August 10, 2021

North American Mining’s Chris Taylor says the state of Florida presented good opportunities for aggregate producers throughout the pandemic – both in private construction and with Department of Transportation work. Photo: PamElla Lee Photography

The following transcripts were edited from two concurrent discussions at this year’s Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference. The transcript from one session begins in this post. This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.

P&Q: Take us through the roller coaster that’s been your last 18 months. Producers: How was business just before the onset of the pandemic, and what transpired for your businesses in the months thereafter? How would you characterize 2020 as a whole, and how have you fared thus far in terms of 2021 production? Which construction markets are driving aggregate demand, and which are keeping you up at night? What’s the status of your state Department of Transportation – is it in a position to fuel jobs as you’d typically expect? How has aggregate pricing been impacted? Equipment suppliers and others: Similarly, tell us about your 2020 and early 2021 experiences as they relate to the aggregate industry?

SCOTT ALEXANDER (ARCOSA AGGREGATES): We were poised for a great year. And then, like everyone, the pandemic hit and that began the whole roller coaster ride as far as freezing capital, panicking and whatnot. But, I can say we ended up going through the year and doing better than we had budgeted and came through it – like many other people in the industry that I’ve spoken with – much better than we thought and somewhat unscathed. We were prepared for the worst and were very pleasantly surprised.

SCOTT DICKSON (HANSON AGGREGATES SOUTHEAST): I would echo similar comments in Georgia. We only saw a slowdown of about six weeks, and our business grew over 2019. All sectors of the economy remained very strong in Georgia. South Carolina, again, had a strong year. North Carolina was very different. The state stayed locked down much longer. We really did not see the North Carolina economy break loose until about September. However, the first part of this year almost looks like a takeoff of the level of activity we had in 2019. So I do think that North Carolina has some pent-up demand that has carried on this year because of that lull that took place in 2020.

WARREN HAWKRIDGE (VCNA PRAIRIE MATERIAL): I think ‘roller coaster’ is a really good explanation of how 2020 went. We started off with some decent backlog, and then the pandemic started to unfold. A lot of people kind of paused on some of their projects, although, because we were deemed essential, we continued to produce. It was kind of up and down. In general, we finished probably about as good as we thought we would at the start of the year, but it was very up and down to end up where we did.

John Scepaniak Wm. D. Scepaniak


JOHN SCEPANIAK (WM. D. SCEPANIAK): When you look at private versus DOT (Department of Transportation) in 2020, we had a very strong private workload. When DOT scaled back, we filled that void with more private work. So, we just really pivoted. The markets we’ve seen carry us through 2020 were concrete materials in metropolitan areas that were growing despite the economy. Things like Fargo-Moorhead seemed to be outliers where there was still construction going on – commercial and residential – so our product was being used for concrete for that.

CHRIS TAYLOR (NORTH AMERICAN MINING): Florida specifically was good for both private and DOT. Florida took advantage of fewer people on the road and did a lot of projects. It was one of our highest years ever. So, generally speaking, 2020 was a good year. That said, other markets were not quite as good. But, generally, it was a good year because of the way Florida handled its business. We were wide open the whole time, really. It never changed.

MATT LEPP (VDG): The year continued to grow, both in the aggregate and mining sectors for us. It got to the point where we actually had to put an expansion on our building. At least in Canada, there were just a lot of restrictions. Being essential, though, we were able to move through that fairly well. By summer, we were operating absolutely normal, short of some travel. But even that was pretty much back to normal by the end of last year. By the end of 2020, the year ended better than 2019 for us.

TOMASO VENEROSO (AMCAST): Number-wise, we did quite well in 2020. We look a lot at the mining and aggregate industries. We put emphasis on material science and casting. As far as the manufacturing division of crushing, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on markets like sand. For us, the answer is innovation creates better product with this concept of the supplier being a full partner in the search of innovation with the producer. And I think 2020 also underlined this need of innovation. So there are positives, and I always see the glass as half full.

ConExpo Roundtable


JOSH SWANK (PHILIPPI-HAGENBUCH): Coming off ConExpo-Con/Agg, the team coming back coincided with pretty much the entire company other than manufacturing going to a work-from-home model. That certainly hasn’t slowed down this year. What it did, though, is allowed us to use our technology systems that have already been in place but never quite used in this way before. It was the most seamless process we experienced. I think that evolution would not have taken place nearly as fast without the situations we encountered last year.

RICK MADARA (MCLANAHAN CORP.): For us, it never really slowed down. We just kept plugging away, and the rest of 2020 was a good year for us. Now, a lot of that stuff was already in production, so it was already halfway done. We worried about 2021, adjusted our budget based on that and ended up hitting our budget halfway through the year. All our manufacturing facilities were at 100 percent capacity the whole way through. Since the pandemic hit until now, it’s been pretty good and, hopefully, it’ll continue that way throughout this year where we think it’s going to. We’ll see.

SEAN WEISIGER (CONN-WELD INDUSTRIES): The technology is great, but what we do as an industry – in manufacturing – we can’t do virtually. You can’t blast and process rock virtually. We are an in-person industry, and a lot of the relationships and the way our industry works is in person. Everything we do is custom, and I need to see the rock. I need to see what the challenges are at each individual site to make sure I’m providing the best product.

NICK ROSETO (ABB MOTORS & MECHANICAL): I thought that staying home, as tough as it seemed, allowed me to personally engage with producers much better. I was able to work with producers who used wireless sensors on equipment, and we could monitor that equipment remotely at home and help them maintain equipment that needed to be maintained that wasn’t necessarily being maintained from an operations point. That was one unique aspect of being able to stay home and do that type of thing. I think it just advanced it a lot quicker than probably what we would have otherwise seen.

Pt & Quarry Roundtable & Conference 2020


SHELDON SHEPHERD (TECWEIGH): I would definitely agree with that, because what it did was force the aggregate industry and the supplier-producer relationship to adopt technologies that may have already been used. We also got better opportunities with customers to do webinars to where they didn’t have time before but maybe took some time to learn more about our equipment and how to operate. The business world isn’t going to be the same after this. Any time major changes occur, there’ll be efficiencies created, new ways of doing business. That’s what we’re experiencing right now.

JUSTIN MELLOTT (MELLOTT COMPANY): We saw similar things with technology really improving communication last year. But what we also realized is where else in our organization we can utilize technology better to transmit and communicate. We’re also providing more information when it comes to access to our parts information, our parts pricing, our availability, what we have in stock and what we are providing. So, what we did is built an e-commerce platform last year that gives our customers direct access to that information, that availability of what parts are on the shelves, how much it costs and streamlined that process.

Featured photo: PamElla Lee Photography

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