In a few weeks, I'll be a proud father of a CIM graduate. My middle son is scheduled to receive his degree from Middle Tennessee State University. He's anxious to embark on the next journey into his version of the world of concrete.

When he began his studies four or so years ago, I never thought he'd have to face his greatest employment challenge before leaving campus. As Yelton luck often plays out, he enters our industry at a time of great uncertainty. Industry leaders are facing horrendous challenges, with hiring new people low on the list of priorities.

I wish I knew how to advise him. All I can suggest to my son and his fellow mid-year graduates is to stay the course. When I entered the construction materials market, jobs were plentiful and opportunities exceeded available talent. But I also remember how I felt when I lost jobs. Fortunately, each loss was followed by the joy of a new opportunity.

When my staff met to plan this issue, our conversation eventually turned to the state of our industry. It's obvious to even the most casual observer that our industry is under duress. One staffer nominated the economy as one of our industry's influencers.

I understand that point of view. But occurrences such as the housing market's decline, the national election, or even natural catastrophes are not influencers. They are the constraints by which we do business and live our lives. They are cyclical, and in some small way, we can anticipate them.

I have a special reason to be optimistic in these tough times. The concrete industry has worked in anticipation for this downturn. And in this issue, we are focusing on several individuals who are paving the way for the long-term success of this year's Concrete Industry Management graduates' careers.

Our honorees again exemplify what industry influencers do best. Each person has uniquely enhanced his own industry segment. But when you view their combined efforts from afar, the result dramatically shows the strong influence producers have on the total construction market. The net effect of this group's efforts is a more market-based industry that is providing a wide range of quality products that aid sustainability.

Along with their actions, these influencers are role models. New graduates will recognize that these influencers have common traits that move an industry forward. They anticipate instead of react. Their results are measurable rather than ethereal. And most importantly, their method of effecting change is drawn from gathering consensus, not issuing edicts.

My son and his fellow graduates may not recognize it now, but this tough job market may be the best thing to happen to them in their careers. They will truly appreciate the opportunity they receive. And thanks to the collective effort of this year's industry influencers, these graduates have a set of role models who are making our industry a better place in which to work. Please turn to page 32 to read about the five influencers we have chosen for 2008.