Like many people, I'm a sucker for a good anniversary.

I'm a big history buff, so perhaps they capture my attention more than most people. For example, we'll be hearing a lot in the coming weeks about the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But did you also know 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall? Or that the ill-fated Titanic was launched 100 years ago? And did you know 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy's attack on Fort Sumter, which started the American Civil War?

Closer to home, this is the 10th year THE CONCRETE PRODUCER has published its TCP100 survey results. You can find this year's story on page 18. I decided to take a figurative stroll down memory lane, so I started reading the stories from the past decade.

Here are some examples. From 2004: “Beleaguered by state fiscal crises, the public works sector remains most tenuous, according to top producers. While almost one-third expect improvements in this market, an equal number expect conditions to worsen. High unemployment has meant a smaller tax base, resulting in a decline in state revenue collections.” What was the average unemployment rate in 2004? 5.5% The July 2011 rate was 9.1%, and this is down from its peak two years ago.

Take this gem from 2006. “Two-thirds of producers said material shortages, mostly cement, have had a major or moderate impact on their businesses. ‘Material shortages have limited our ability to expand in the marketplace,' said a small producer in the West who said the impact has been major. ‘It's caused us to neglect customers and we've had to send customers away.'”

The cement shortage was the main topic at association meetings and conferences I attended around this time. I'm going to guess that you wish material shortages were your biggest worry today.

What did I learn after reading these stories? We didn't realize how good we had it back then. It's human nature to always want more and to complain about the current state of affairs. But I also like to think it is admirable that we always strive for excellence, and no matter how good we have it now, we think things can always be better. Maybe that's the biggest lesson from reading our TCP100 stories from the recent past. We always reach higher.

North America's Largest Concrete Producers

Web Extra: 2011 Capital Investments
Producers responding to the TCP100 survey said they plan to purchase the following equipment in 2011.

50 years in business

Speaking of anniversaries, I hope you visit our website to read a story about Hornet Concrete in South Lyon, Mich., just west of Detroit. Jeff LaChance and his father Leonard are celebrating their 50th year in business. They passed up a lucrative chance to sell their small ready-mix company just before the recent recession hit. But Leonard, 82, wasn't ready to retire. Looking back, they have no regrets. “We're tenacious,” Jeff LaChance says. “Other companies around us have come and gone, but we're still plugging away.”

Hornet Concrete and hundreds of other small producers like them will never be large enough to crack our TCP100 list of largest producers. But they perfectly exemplify the spirit that will allow our industry to survive and come back better than ever.

Web Extra: Fierce Family Still Flourishes
Hornet Concrete marks their golden anniversary.