Jean-Michel Malo and his teammates at the École de Technolgie Supérieure (ETS) from Montreal have proven yet again that necessity truly is the mother of invention. His team needed the perfect aggregate for a tough engineering project. The group was strapped for cash and had a tight production deadline to meet. When they couldn't find a suitable source, all seemed lost. A semester's work was about to be sunk.

Undaunted, the inventive civil engineering student had an inspiration. He discovered a reliable aggregate source that was nearby. The concrete canoe from 2004 was gathering dust in the corner of the team's shed.

Malo instantly realized that there could be no better source than one whose performance properties had already been proven. The team agreed and then crushed it for aggregate. They sieved the deleterious material and reblended it until they created a material conforming to ASTM C-33. ETS had its aggregate, more working space, and a few more dollars to spend at the American Society of Civil Engineers' National Concrete Canoe Competition in June.

During his team's question and answer portion of the canoe's design paper presentation, Malo touted the ETS entry, Tomahawk, as the first canoe cast from recycled concrete. As a judge, I was impressed. I gave his team points for the innovation.

ETS wasn't the only canoe team which employed unique ideas for the event. The design reports included cutting edge technology from inventive casting techniques to material research. In fact, I believe that if these reports are forbearers of what our concrete future holds, we're in good hands.

It's fitting that in the same issue in which we report on the state of the concrete production industry, we have a story about this year's competition at the University of Washington. Developing a lake-worthy concrete canoe is a great example of Prescription to Performance-based specifications, or P2P. Teams design, cast, and then use their concrete designs.

While many observers are lamenting the current stream of mergers, buyouts, and acquisitions, I'm optimistic. Interest from the international banking community couldn't have come at a better time. As a whole, our industry's operations are in the best condition ever. The likelihood of continued improvement is high, as the cost of new technology remains reasonable. We have a group of young students trained in civil engineering and concrete industry management who are excited about our material. And we have a market that is finally recognizing that the true value of concrete is similar to that of buried treasure.

Concrete production is no longer only a family operation. Owners and managers can learn from the ETS canoe team. Like the students who cast a winning canoe, producers will find a way to succeed in the new market environment.

If you want to get excited about the industry, spend some time with these people. After a week with these young civil engineering students in Seattle, I'm confident there is a new breed of concrete producers and engineers on the horizon, ready to assume leadership in our industry. And before long, their names and their companies will top our TCP100.

Rick Yelton
Editor In Chief
ryelton@hanleywood.com