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Highway funding faces perfect storm

The slight, gradual rebound in projected 2011-12 concrete demand has given way to a nearly flat outlook for the period, after a downgraded forecast Portland Cement Association released late last month. Chief Economist Ed Sullivan attributed highway-funding legislation uncertainty in calling for a 0.6 percent 2011-12 cement consumption increase over a 2009-10 trough. A previous forecast that might have seen cement shipments this year and next combine for an 8–10 percent gain factored a 20 percent increase in federal highway funding, which PCA now sees will continue at its present level.

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Rogue union locals do little to sustain cast-in-place practice

Quality control in a plant environment and absence of weather-induced pour delays lead advantages that precast concrete interests cite when comparing their methods to cast-in-place alternatives. A few United Brotherhood of Carpenters locals, embittered by failure to organize concrete subcontractor crews, might codify another advantage in precasters’ pitch: Lower probability of general contractor or project owner harassment.

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OSH, Davis-Bacon Acts Bring Taxpayers Divergent Returns

As the Occupational Safety & Health Administration marked its 40th anniversary at the end of April, agency officials pointed to an impressive two-thirds reduction in workplace fatality rates since 1970 (report, OSHA timeline, page 14).

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An old standby meets sustainability era

“A product as old as time.” That’s how our cover story subject, Shaw Brick of Nova Scotia, describes its core offering in a 150th anniversary timeline. Market share-driven acquisitions, plant investment, and integrated production and distribution of clay and concrete masonry units have kept the Shaw brand a fixture in North American masonry.

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Metromont, Tindall break new ground

In the first of two 2011 issues on precast/prestressed, we find the strongest story candidates in the Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., market: Metromont Corp., whose Bartow, Fla., plant is our cover feature (pages 20-23) subject, and Tindall Corp., whose proposed Kansas plant for precast wind turbine tower bases (page 12), warrants future spotlight. Both producers have responded to unique market catalysts with two of the more ambitious greenfield operations we’ll see this decade.

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