Establishing a Foundation for Growth in Texas
The Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association (TACA)
The Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association (TACA) is the trade association representing the aggregate, concrete, cement and other affiliated industries in the state – with Texas the largest producer of each of these three material segments in the United States.
To put it into perspective, Texas has approximately 273 million tons of aggregate material, which is more than both Florida and California combined – the second and third largest producers in the country respectively. It is also the number one state in the country for cement. On the ready-mix concrete side, there are 54.5 million cubic yards statewide, representing roughly 15.5 percent of the total volume in the U.S.
Considering the per capita consumption of each of these materials and the fundamental growth occurring in the state, there is a great amount of activity taking place in Texas in the aggregates, concrete, cement and affiliated industries.
“TACA seeks to provide an opportunity for members to collaborate and work together to advance best practices, share information and improve the ability of our industry to be successful in the state of Texas,” says David Perkins, President and CEO.
TACA’s mission has various components, one of which is to engage in policy matters at the local and state levels to support consistent funding for infrastructure. The association works closely with legislative and regulatory policymakers to ensure that policies are reasonable and rational. The key policy areas include road and transportation, the natural environment, sustainability and the permitting processes.
TACA recognizes that the products produced by its members are primarily used in the local region. On average, 90 percent of aggregates are produced within 50 miles or less of where they are eventually used. For that reason, TACA finds it critical to develop cooperative and engaged relationships with the local community.
Another purpose of TACA is to share accurate technical information to ensure that the specifications in place for its materials are reasonably fair and that the testing and evaluation processes are thorough to ensure that the products consistently meet standards. “We collaborate quite a bit with our own members and also other regulatory and quasi-regulatory organizations like the Texas Department of Transportation to make sure that we’re providing good and robust information,” explains Perkins.
The 100,000 members of TACA across the state range from companies involved in the actual production of aggregates, concrete and cement to the associative businesses that support production. The organization represents 80 percent of aggregates, 75 percent of ready- mix producers and 100 percent of the cement producers in Texas today.
The primary benefit of membership is that it provides opportunities to build and develop relationships that are long-lasting. Networking allows people who are new to the industry to learn, grow and broaden their horizons. It also provides a forum for people who have a good bit of experience to share that wealth of knowledge. In the end, it helps to raise the overall capabilities of the aggregate, concrete, cement and other affiliated industries.
There are a variety of annual programs operated by TACA throughout the year that are designed to help share new information with members. The association provides beginners’ training in January for industry newcomers, moving into a short course that is essentially a consolidated version of the information provided at its annual meeting. “The short course usually brings different topics from infrastructure to regulatory and legislative updates, to economic updates, outlooks and forecasts, to specific projects that are taking place in the state that affect our members,” shares Perkins.
The annual meeting takes place each June and is an event that TACA encourages everyone to attend because it offers an expanded set of general sessions that cover a variety of industry issues. In the fall, the organization holds an environmental and sustainability seminar that is directed toward some of the leaders of the state and federal agencies that regulate the market.
Every other year, Texas meets in a legislative session and is currently in a session this year. “We have a very engaged legislative policy and advocacy approach and we do that primarily through our Government Affairs Committee,” says Perkins. In February, representatives of TACA took part in a fly-in at the State Capitol with a series of nearly 100 legislative meetings with key members of the legislature and staff. These meetings focused on updating the legislature on the industry as well as the key policy priorities that are critical to the organization. The legislative session is the critical policymaking time for Texas, and TACA advocates consistently for reasonable and rational approaches, along with robust infrastructure investment. While the session is scheduled to wrap up by the end of May, policymaking engagement continues during the interim period.
Texas aggregates, concrete and cement industries joined forces in 1974 to form TACA to help manage the rapid growth of the state. Certainly, the industries have changed dramatically over the past 45 years, yet the organization has stood the test of time through all of the state’s growth and development in a sustainable and stable manner.
“The state demographer is projecting that by 2050, Texas is going to add another 18-plus million people,” says Perkins. “That equates to the equivalent of a new Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, so we basically have to accommodate for all four of those cities in the next 31 years – and that’s a lot of infrastructure.”
Indeed, the state of Texas adds between 1400 and 1500 new residents to its population every single day who are either born or choose to relocate there, and that high amount of population growth puts a significant strain on the existing infrastructure. “Every person, based on consumption rates, is going to require anywhere from nine to 10 tons of stone, sand or gravel, about two yards of ready-mix concrete and about six-tenths of a ton of cement every single year. When you do that math and look at the need for additional capacity in our state, it is a critical challenge,” explains Perkins.
Adequate investment in that infrastructure is crucial. Texas was successful in 2014 and 2015 with two referenda put before the voters that were both supported with more than 80 percent approval rates. The purpose of the referenda was to use funds for transportation that are brought into the state through sales tax revenue and oil and gas severance tax revenue. Having these two very strong and growing components to the state treasury on an ongoing basis is essential, as TACA strives to ensure that the funds continue to accommodate the increasing needs of an expanding population.
The unemployment rate is low in Texas and finding qualified or even unskilled labor to fill the available positions is a challenge. This applies to the entire spectrum of the trades workforce, including entry level unskilled workers, mechanics, welders and commercial driver’s licensed (CDL) drivers. As Perkins explains, “A lot of the folks who have been in this industry for the last 20 to 40 years will be retiring, so we have to figure out how to build that bench strength back and make sure we’re creating the next generation of leaders.”
To this end, TACA offers a unique program, currently in its fourth year, called the Emerging Leaders Academy, designed as a platform for professional and personal development. The rigorous three-year program provides a variety of courses dedicated to developing leadership skills. It is taught by Rick Kolster and offers participants certification as accredited leaders. This program is helpful to companies with their next generation of leaders.
From a nonoperational perspective, social media platforms are also creating challenges for TACA by establishing misinformed groups of individuals who are opposed to the location of new facilities for the production of infrastructure materials to support the state’s enormous growth. These facilities undergo an extensive permitting process. When social media groups use emotionally biased opinions, rather than hard facts to inform their campaigns, misinformation spreads quickly and starts to drive policy before it can be corrected. TACA engages with these groups to help clear up the misconceptions and share accurate information.
One way to help residents better understand the process is by sharing with the community exactly what is being done and providing the opportunity for tours and open houses. To address concerns, it is helpful to listen to the residents and answer questions about how the facility is managed, the landscaping, fencing, or outdoor lighting features, and how the equipment is maintained. TACA and its members are also actively engaged with the local community through education programs and a variety of charity organizations they support. Many youth sports teams are sponsored by TACA member companies with financial support and volunteer coaching.
To be sure, sustainability in the aggregate, concrete and cement industries are exciting, with new innovations continuously emerging. Recycling material after its end use is now common; for example, concrete that has been removed from a demolition project can be crushed and reused as aggregate stone material for use in other construction applications. Utilizing alternative materials in the actual concrete production process is another sustainable solution. Many are unaware that one of the key components of concrete is fly ash, which comes primarily from coal-fired utilities and is made up of the catch material that is scrubbed out of the air stream before the exhaust gases reach the atmosphere. This material, along with other types of supplementary cementitious materials – also called SCMs – are very well suited from a performance and an enhancement standpoint to be used in concrete. Some benefits include lowering the heat of hydration to avoid concrete cracks and improving sulphate resistance to create more durable and resilient concrete – particularly important as some of the soils in Texas have a high sulphate content. Ultimately, developing more durable products results in structures that are built to last longer and create safer communities that are ultimately more resilient to natural disaster events, such as Hurricane Harvey.
The lower emission technology used for compressed natural gas engines for equipment used in the industry can be particularly beneficial in urban areas that are trying to address ozone air quality attainment challenges.
Another sustainable practice is that once a mining operation is complete with the excavation of sand, gravel, limestone or other aggregate material, it can be used for alternative projects. “Post-mining, these facilities have a great capacity for water storage. When you look at the cost of building a reservoir or a lake, we could partner up with a local water agency or district,” says Perkins. It is a logical partnership for mining companies to work with organizations that could use the space long-term and it is very much a topic being discussed in policy meetings. “We really would like to see where we can help provide value in terms of long-term use of these facilities after the mining is completed,” Perkins says.
“The future for the state of Texas is tremendously bright,” says Perkins. “As an association, as well as for our state, we have to keep our focus on preserving and maintaining good, reasonable economic development, ensuring that the environment and the communities are not adversely impacted and making sure that those are done hand in hand.”
As the state and the industry both grow, the number of TACA members will continue to increase and even more collaborative business relationships will be formed. TACA advocates for its members, is actively involved in policy processes and adds significant value to the community and economic development in Texas. As Perkins says, “Our organization is well positioned to help support our industry and ultimately to be the foundation of that growth for the state of Texas.”