A few weeks ago, I met a precast producer at the SCC 2008 conference reception hosted by Northwestern University's Center for Advanced Cement-Based Materials. Despite all the great technical information we had learned that afternoon, our conversation turned to economic news.

The producer was concerned that many of our industry's key leaders had never experienced the cyclic economic downturn that more experienced owners have. As he looked into his half-empty glass, I could see the worry he had about our industry's health. I needed to do something to brighten his mood.

So I gave a preview of my article that's on page 31 in this issue and explained to him my five reasons why I think the concrete industry will fare better than other manufacturing segments. When I finished my litany, the producer smiled and admitted he had to agree with each point. But even my best effort to put on a happy face in the toughest of times didn't stop him from draining the rest of his glass.

I realize I'm offering this rather cheery perspective while many trucks are parked, plants are operating on only straight time, and layoffs are reaching levels unseen in the last decade.

But my engineering training causes me to be an optimist. And in my last decade as a journalist, I've learned to separate the hoopla from reality.

Name one industry better prepared for any sort of recovery. Our nation has historically turned to large construction projects to turn around the economy. And from the pre-inauguration press reports, this new administration seems ready to embrace this pattern. These projects typically use a great deal of concrete and masonry.

But the foundation of my opinion is the reality that our customers have finally discovered our versatile material's true value: sustainability, durability, and life-safety.

I'm not the only one who recognizes these times of change as an opportunity to right some wrongs. It's interesting that two high-profile governors and the mayor of New York City have been urging support for increasing federal funding to rebuild America's aging infrastructure. They've signed on as leaders of the Building America's Future coalition.

The non-partisan coalition is co-chaired by Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. For more, visit www.investininfrastructure.org.

These leaders hope to unite state and locally elected officials from around the nation by becoming a repository of best practices on infrastructure funding issues. They want to create an environment where infrastructure funding is treated like the national priority it should be. “We need to build America's future, brick by brick, and the support of governors from across the country is the first critical brick because it shows that local and state governments cannot continue to do it alone,” Rendell said last year.