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Credit: Photo: Bryan Haraway, Getty Images

Decorative colored and polished concrete, as mentioned at the Concrete Polishing Luncheon and Forum, can help diversify the contractor's portfolio and help meet green-building objectives.

On a project involving a polished concrete floor, attaining LEED points can help reduce the energy used for lighting, heating, and cooling buildings, Jennifer Faller of Vexcon Chemicals Inc. told the Polishing luncheon crowd. This can help secure your bid on a project where an owner also is trying to cut costs during leaner time.

Forecasts about the residential market for 2008 have left many with a sense of foreboding. With that in mind, producers and contractors were eagerly looking for more prognostications for 2008 and beyond.

At THE CONCRETE PRODUCER's Economic Summit, featured speakers confirmed these fears, noting recovery isn't expected until late 2009. (Turn to page 41 for the complete report on this event.)

During the same week as WOC, the Federal Reserve Bank made an unprecedented 0.75% cut in the federal funds rate which governs loan agreements between banks. The move was intended to stimulate the economy in light of the plunging stock markets around the world.

Michelle Wilson, manager of education and development at the Portland Cement Association, explained to attendees at the Women in Concrete Luncheon that while rough times are ahead, our population growth will spur the need for more houses and retirement facilities. Through 2030, the nation's population will increase 22%, with an additional 65 million people.

Also, the National Center for Health Statistics recently reported that the fertility rate is at an all-time high since the baby boom generation was born. With an increase in births, infrastructure demands will peak as these newborns reach their kindergarten years, resulting in a greater need for schools, hospitals, and other community resources.

Concrete will play a bigger role in helping build longer and stronger with what Kristin Cooper-Carter, director of the Concrete Industry Management program at California State University, Chico, called the 50-year lifespan. “We can't continue constructing buildings the way we have for the last 50 years,” she said. “We need to start building up. Concrete does well in high-rise construction.” This will become more important as viable space grows scarce.

Remaining vigilant

Still, despite a flagging economy, the 1700 exhibitors were encouraged by the response they received and the quality of leads they gathered. Carving a niche and staying innovative are ways to remain competitive. Once again, the World of Concrete was an opportunity for the industry to prove that it's resilient enough to endure any business cycle.

— Kate Hamilton is associate editor of CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION magazine.