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Leading the Way – Part One

World Cement,

Q You’ve joined PCA management at an interesting time, with NESHAP compliance just around the corner, more regulations on the way, and an upswing in the economy. Do you feel optimistic about the future of the US cement industry?

John Stull: I feel optimistic about the future of the US cement industry. Ed Sullivan, Group Vice President and Chief Economist at PCA, has stated: “The United States’ cement market is expected to grow 8.2% in 2014, followed by similar rates of growth in 2015 and 2016.” This is positive news for the industry and shows a trend of strong cement demand in the future. The underlying economic fundamentals are strengthening and creating sustained gains in monthly job creation, stronger state and local tax receipts, more favourable return on investments for commercial building and stronger household formation. This combines to result in the potential for stronger construction spending in 2015 and beyond. 

Jim Toscas: In the big picture and the long-term, we’re definitely optimistic, because where there’s civilisation there’s concrete, and where there’s concrete there’s cement. In the more near-term, based on forecasts from PCA’s market intelligence team regarding the US construction industry, we are justifiably optimistic. After seeing 8% growth last year, we’re projecting more than 8% for 2015. The main challenge I see the industry facing is new regulations. The trend in the United States for the past several years has been toward more new regulations and tightening of existing regulations, not only for cement producers but for many industries. We expect this trend to continue, at least during the present Administration.

Q What personal experience do you each bring to the table in terms of meeting the challenge of a stringent regulatory environment?

JS: I have been in the cement industry for more than 20 years, with much industrial manufacturing experience during those years. Whether it was during my early days at Lafarge working as a plant manager at a tightly regulated cement plant, working as the Vice President of Manufacturing for the US or now as President & CEO for Lafarge US and Chair of the PCA Board of Directors, there has always been a strong, positive regulatory component to my positions. It is important that our industry and the regulatory agencies work together to help bring our product to our customers in a safe and environmentally conscious manner.

JT: For my part, I came originally from the nuclear power industry, arguably the most strictly-regulated industry in the US. I know that regulators sometimes set and try to achieve goals at a pace that can exceed the compliance capabilities of the target industry, as well as its support industries, in terms of not only capital but also the human and material resources available to them. It is important to work constructively with regulators to (1) help ensure that regulatory goals are based on accurate data and sound science, and (2) achieve these goals in a manner and at a pace consistent with preserving the continued viability of the industry. This allows for the best possible outcome where the industry can continue to apply available capital, human and material resources, toward improving the product, its industrial process, and growing capacity to meet demand, rather than fighting with regulators.

This is an excerpt from the interview published in World Cement’s IEEE-IAS/PCA Cement Industry Technical Conference Supplement. To read part two, click here.

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