The Trump wall: What is it exactly and how could it affect the industry?

By |  February 24, 2017

The location of this year’s Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference, in Scottsdale, Arizona, presented an opportunity to discuss President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and the potential impact it could have on the aggregate industry.

Several roundtable attendees weighed in on the topic, including Steve Trussell, executive director of the Arizona Rock Products Association; Dave McLaughlin, director of major accounts at KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens; and Warren Hawkridge, vice president and general manager of aggregates at Hinkle Contracting. Pit & Quarry Senior Editor Kevin Yanik moderated the discussion.

The comments that follow are edited and abbreviated transcripts from one of two roundtable sessions.

Steve Trussell

Yanik: Because we’re in Arizona, a state that would be impacted by the Trump wall, we wanted to ask about the wall and its potential impact on you. What are the conversations like among aggregate producers and manufacturers surrounding the Trump wall and the legitimacy of this opportunity? Realistically, what does the Trump wall mean to the aggregate industry?

Trussell: I’m not sure what to expect here. Has anyone seen the wall? Do they know what we’re talking about?

Because if you’ve seen the way it’s built, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of opportunity for the aggregate industry. It’s a big steel wall. Obviously there are going to be some footers and so forth. We’ve had companies that are members of [the Arizona] Rock Products [Association] that were involved in the construction of that wall, but they were construction companies.

I guess my question is: Are they changing the design? Or, what are we really talking about here? I don’t really know how to answer that question because what has been erected has been generally ineffective.

Dave McLaughlin

I’m assuming [Trump’s] desire is to create something more grandiose and put people to work doing that. But I don’t know what message that sends to Mexico. They are a very important trade partner.

McLaughlin: The experts are saying it’s going to cost $25 billion to build a wall. The Trump administration, even though they haven’t given a lot of details, their numbers [indicate] it’s like half of that.

We’re hearing a lot of things out of Trump and the administration, but it seems like they don’t understand the details. How are we going to get there? Are we going to finance it through the private sector rather than local and state agents – or governments? Everything sounds good, but the details are yet to be figured out.

The first question Congress is going to ask is, ‘What are the pay-fors?’ Are we talking repatriation? What specifically are we going to do to pay for that?

Warren Hawkridge

I don’t think this president fears going into debt in order to generate commerce and industry. And if you build it, they will come. He gets that. His track record’s proven that. Then the question becomes, ‘How is that going to happen and how do you get the approval of Congress?’

Hawkridge: As a producer, it’s great public-private partnerships will probably accelerate the pace of spending. As a taxpayer, though, those companies are looking for a return.

I don’t know how I personally feel about it because, in the long run, it’s going to cost the taxpayers more. Rather than the government just taking the initiative to do it, the private sector does, they’re going to do it and make money on it.

So it’s kind of a bittersweet thing for me. As a producer I love it. As a taxpayer, I’m not sure I like it.

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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