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Ncma 20:20 Vision For The Future

The National Concrete Masonry Association is looking a decade ahead to plan how masonry can reclaim market share and offer new products that will take

Mark Wilhelms, NCMA

The National Concrete Masonry Association is looking a decade ahead to plan how masonry can reclaim market share and offer new products that will take concrete masonry deep into the 21st century. The vehicle will be Vision 2020, and leading the association will be a chairman who is keen on realizing its aims.

Vision 2020 will work in local markets, on local codes and municipal bodies to develop masonry-preferred ordinances, says 2010 NCMA Chairman Mark Wilhelms, sales and marketing manager, Kirchner Block & Brick division of Midwest Products Group, Jefferson City, Mo. After a lot of success in Texas with that program, we are partnering with others to create a national program to provide tools and support to other regional organizations looking to similarly influence construction in their area. Added support will be supplied by the Mason Contractors Association of America [MCAA] and other masonry-related organizations.

Thus, the purpose of Vision 2020 is clear: To give industry representatives the ammunition they need to communicate to local governments that masonry-preferred ordinances and planning policies benefit their citizens.


We have to train our sales forces, Wilhelms asserts. Vision 2020 will give local producers in different geographic areas the means to learn how to get such ordinances started, how to build a local team, how to find out which municipalities hold the best prospects, what is a masonry-preferred ordinance, whom should they speak with, what are the issues, and what data exist to substantiate the request. All of those topics will help create a sales force that can speak intelligently when it knocks on the city planner's door.

Vision 2020 is the outgrowth of an NCMA/MCAA partnership. Initiated by 2008 NCMA Chairman Bill Holden (Block USA, Birmingham, Ala.) and 2010 MCAA President Mackie Bounds (Brazos Masonry, Inc., Waco, Texas), Vision 2020 will facilitate grassroots marketing campaigns in local markets to support concrete masonry.

At NCMA's annual convention business luncheon in March in San Antonio, Vision 2020 is the main theme. There, NCMA members will see how to develop a Vision 2020 Team, how community planning can work for the masonry industry, the basics of enacting a Masonry Planning Policy, and establishing Sustainable Masonry & Hardscape Communities.

Vision 2020 will help the masonry industry be a lot more effective and efficient, Wilhelms emphasizes. We've found we have a lot more in common with other associations than we have differences, and Vision 2020 is one of the ways we can work together and get the best bang for our buck when it comes to marketing and promotional research.


The brick industry has been somewhat ahead of concrete masonry in encouraging communities to take responsibility for the value of buildings constructed within their jurisdictions, Wilhelms notes, but the concrete masonry industry is learning from them. The brick industry has succeeded in getting masonry-preferred ordinances adopted by numerous communities across the country, he reports. These ordinances require certain percentages of buildings to be masonry. We will continue to explore opportunities with the brick industry to determine if broader definitions of masonry will benefit both industries, as well as the communities themselves. We must think of ourselves as selling a system, not just a masonry unit. Mason contractors become a key ally for this message.

However, because it may not be feasible to expect enactment of masonry-preferred policies in every town, we are positioning Vision 2020 to show the way to better sales skills in a broader context, too, Wilhelms tells Concrete Products. That includes how to organize sales teams, he adds, or how to pinpoint priorities such as masonry in schools or multi-family housing. We will work with whatever your local team wants to do and provide tools that will allow you to present the advantages of masonry.

Sustainable design is a top priority, Wilhelms affirms. Communities with lakes or ponds will be very keen on water quality. And, the use of products like permeable segmental pavers and articulated concrete blocks (ACBs) can help control storm water runoff and quality, and erosion.

The concrete masonry industry is focusing on ways to determine how well recycled products and aggregates can fit into masonry. How recycled materials affect performance of concrete block and retaining walls is a subject of study for NCMA, Wilhelms observes. We are soliciting funding and grants to enable us to step back, research the materials over a longer period of time, and push towards more accurate data on using recycled materials in concrete masonry.


In 2010, NCMA will accelerate its research in segmental retaining wall (SRW) materials and design, including recycled-materials content. Segmental retaining walls are part of this ÎgreenÌ research, Wilhelms says. SRWs are a very cost-effective wall system for highways, and if we can incorporate larger percentages of fly ash or post-industrial or post-consumer aggregates, a lot of potential exists for their expanded use in highways and bridges.

Last year, to further adoption of SRWs, NCMA introduced Version 4.0 of its industry-standard Design Software for Segmental Retaining Walls. An aid to civil engineers in designing safe, cost-effective retaining wall structures, Version 4.0 covers both conventional gravity and soil-reinforced walls. The software is available from NCMA as a free 30-day trial download.

The new software version incorporates improvements made to design methodology published in the third edition of NCMA's Design Manual for Segmental Retaining Walls and features a more user-friendly interface, which also automatically alerts the user to updates and new releases.


In support of Vision 2020, NCMA has launched a market research study that will identify hot markets for masonry. We will look at the entire country and identify priority markets Û be they multi-family residential or commercial Û and then share with our membership, Mark Wilhelms notes. We also will be developing and organizing masonry tool kits, which will take existing literature and case studies, and organize them in a manner that will allow users to be more effective.

Yet another tool kit is aimed at green building. Instead of a rep having to go through all the articles that are out there, we are organizing and consolidating the research into the most effective presentation format of a green building tool kit, Wilhelms explains. We likely will have a kit aimed at masonry in schools, which can include a life-cycle cost study and a paper on durability of concrete masonry. We will gather the best research and marketing materials and put them together in organized tool kits for members to pull and use.

Besides Vision 2020, NCMA has a lot more going on in 2010, Wilhelms affirms. I can't think of another time when the general construction industry's expectations have been so low, Wilhelms tells Concrete Products. But, from an industry standpoint, I can't think of a time when NCMA has been more active, or has had more things going on than we do right now.

He emphasizes that much of the work in association partnering begun by 2009 chairman Mike Finch will continue. Mike has been strong on partnering with other associations, and that's one effort that's easy to continue in 2010, he says. All construction industry associations are challenged right now, and we need to ensure that we make the most efficient use of our dues in terms of staff and programming. The efforts launched by Mike Finch and [2008 chairman] Bill Holden are ready to be finalized and moved forward.

Such initiatives include partnership with the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (ICPI). We've been working with ICPI to better align our two organizations to capitalize on marketing research and promotion, Wilhelms asserts. Great synergies exist between our associations, and we are looking forward to capitalize on those to benefit the members of both NCMA and ICPI.


Partnerships like those with ICPI are also driving the International Concrete Exposition conference and show, now in its second year, March 19-21. In addition to ICPI, partners with NCMA in Icon Expo include the Cast Stone Institute, Expanded Shale, Clay and Slate Institute, and Portland Cement Association.

Icon Expo will include a two-day trade exhibit, workshops, and NCMA's Concrete Products University. Just ahead of the exposition, staged at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, will be the annual NCMA convention. The CSI Winter Workshop will run concurrently, while the ICPI Annual Meeting follows the exposition. Although MCAA is partnering with NCMA in Vision 2020, the group is not in the Icon Expo partnership.

We would love to have MCAA at Icon Expo, but we are co-locating our mid-year meetings [in July] with them, Wilhelms says. Because a mason installs concrete block, it helps to have an open line of communication with MCAA, and we are finding ways to work with them outside of annual conventions.