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I've discovered that while my heart and soul may still be young, my feet are not. So I've resolved to take better care of my tootsies while I'm at World of Concrete later this month.

I learned what happens when you don't plan well after last year's show. My feet hurt for days. And it showed when I tried to officiate a high school basketball game.

I thought I did a pretty good job of shuffling up and down the court. So I was surprised when the director of officials called me a few days after game. “Are you okay?” he asked. “I've been watching the film from Tuesday's game and you look like you were hurt.” But his real jab came when he asked, “You don't think you're getting too old to officiate at this level?”

I managed to convince him that the game film was shot at a poor angle. And when combined with less-than-adequate lighting, it's no wonder he thought I looked slow. He believed me. But I'm not sure I can use this excuse again.

World of Concrete grows in size and significance each year. And whether you're a 25-year veteran like me or a rookie attendee, you need a comprehensive game plan to cover everything without wearing out your feet.

So with the help of the World of Concrete exhibitions team, we've made some changes. You'll find information on these important activities described throughout this issue. But let me highlight a few of the more significant changes.

You'll first notice we've placed the Producers' Challenge Load America and Safety Competition driving skills events in the open space just south of the Central Hall. Be sure to get there early to sign up for your opportunity to demonstrate your operating skills on the ready-mix trucks and four-wheel drive loaders.

Second, we have provided two opportunities to rest your feet, fuel your body, and educate your mind. We've added a special Economic Summit on Tuesday to our popular Women in Concrete Luncheon, which takes place Wednesday.

Third, we've even added some rest and learning opportunities for those of us who begin to fade in the late afternoon. (I've convinced myself it's a time zone thing.) For the first time, we've added a series of 90-minute seminars geared for managers.

And for those of us who need a way to ease ourselves back into good work form, we've added a second Hoover Dam and Bypass tour on Friday, Jan. 26. Our afternoon excursion will provide a capstone view of concrete's importance to construction.

Of course, visiting World of Concrete is more than a walking exercise. It's our industry's only opportunity to share our innovations, goals, and hopes with our contractor-customers.

So even if you're not coming to the show this year, you'll find this issue's focus on contractor-producer relations informative. Our cover feature describes how one producer stood behind his and his customer's quality by fighting a lawsuit based on faulty science. Our report on the Hanley Wood research describing what makes home builders tick should help producers better plan their marketing budgets. And our special section on new products will definitely help provide leads on the right product to stock in your contractor store.

If you do come to Las Vegas, please stop by the Hanley Wood booth and look me up. We've upgraded our show furniture this year. The new chairs will be soft and comfortable. And I'd like to have a legitimate reason to rest in a quiet setting and learn about your business. Besides, I'm secretly hoping that management just rubberstamped my requisition form and they unknowingly approved my request for vibrating recliners.

RICK YELTON, EDITOR IN CHIEF

ryelton@hanleywood.com