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I'VE BEEN GOING through some boxes of stuff hidden away in the basement. Many are cartons from two or three moves ago. My kids want to know why I've kept this stuff. It seems my treasures are now taking up space needed for their soon-to-be unremembered treasures. Maybe they should get larger apartments?

One box had crinoids, brachiopods, and trilobites from the Thornton Quarry in Illinois, galena gems from the Bixby Mine in Missouri, and a piece of concrete pavement from the Edens Expressway in Chicago. Another box had promotional items, rulers, ball caps, and desktop stuff from a host of companies that are no longer in business. And in a third box, I found hundreds of pictures from job sites, meetings, and industry outings.

Never one to throw away a useful item, I gave the rocks to a high school science teacher. The promotional items now decorate my office desk. And I have vowed to scan 10 pictures per day for the rest of my life into my personal digital photo album. That's how I found the picture of my fellow classmates from the 1987 Master Builders management conference.

It had to be my first major business seminar. I had been in the St. Louis area for Kurtz Concrete for about a year. The meeting was a real learning opportunity, as I met with other concrete producers. Most of these folks were from around the country and unfortunately, I've lost contact with most of them.

Even so, I'm certain all of us have shared some common experiences over the last 22 years. We have witnessed the transformation of a local/national industry into one that acts in an international market. We've witnessed efficiency gains in both equipment and mixes. We've seen the professional development of our leaders and key managers. But most importantly, we all have seen the effects of a very cyclical market.

When I was preparing several of the stories for this issue, I found a common theme. Most say we are in the trough of a cycle we haven't witnessed for years. Most producers have had to cut back hard and quickly. Some have laid off key folks for the first time in 20 years, and some plants are still shut down from winter closings. Yet there is still optimism.

Unlike many other industries, our future is secure. And this issue of TCP reflects this message. Concrete construction is the foundation of the stimulus plan and will be a key part of the new highway bill due in October. Producers who recognize the change will benefit faster than those who resist it.

This month, we've suggested how to participate in the transportation market. E-mail me your own ides or post them on my blog.

Editor in Chief

ryelton@hanleywood.com