Despite the news about bailouts, loan defaults, and layoffs, I'm still hopeful our industry performs better than others. Part of my hope is all the buzz about funding infrastructure. Our nation's leaders might finally be willing to invest a fair portion of the funds to rebuild our highways, schools, and bridges-quickly. It's about time.

I was thinking about this when Nick Maloof stopped me at the ASTM conference last week. It was a great visit. At first I was disappointed to learn that after a career spanning more than 30 years and numerous ownership changes, this famous producer is retiring from Thomas Concrete.

My first thought was, just when our country is counting on our industry to make its highest-performance concrete and products, one of industry's renowned quality leaders is retiring. Fortunately, Maloof plans to continue his commitment to quality by working part time for his soon-to-be former employer.

He had that twinkle in his eye as he spoke about retiring. He plans to move from Atlanta to the Birmingham, Ala., area to be closer to some of his grandkids. And he plans to stay connected through his two sons who continue to carry on his tradition in our industry.

In the next few months, our industry will lose more talent. Many of Maloof's contemporaries are opting out. But we have already invested in our own rebuilding. I thought of Nick as I watched my son receive his degree in Concrete Industry Management from Middle Tennessee State University last Saturday. I realized how fortunate he and his classmates are to have an industry that has been so supportive.

I know employment conditions are very tough. But each of us has a chance to aid in continuing to help our industry. The CIM Auction Committee has gathered more than $400,000 worth of items that will go under the gavel on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. The items range from a mixer drum to tickets to a Dallas Cowboys football game. Many of the items begin at prices even an editor can afford.

If you can't make it to World of Concrete in person, you can bid online through the Ritchie Brothers' Web site at www.rbauction.com.

To learn more about the CIM auction and the program it supports, visit www.concretedegree.com. Please help.