Issue link: http://read.dmtmag.com/i/489019
>> CUSTOMER CONNECTION GILES LAMBERTSON L ast month, the National Sand, Stone and Gravel Association installed Charles (Charlie) Luck IV as its 2015 chairman. Luck is president and CEO of 92-year-old, family-owned and operated Luck Companies, of which Richmond, Va.-based Luck Stone is the foundation. In an interview with CED, Luck talks candidly about the challenge facing America's governing leadership, Luck Stone's success in the aggregates industry, and his realization 15 years ago that he was holding back his company. CED: Economic conditions seem to be improving somewhat across the country. How big a hit did the aggre- gates industry take in recent years, and is it experiencing recovery now? Luck: During the "Great Reces- sion," if you want to call it that, construction was the hardest hit segment in the country. Most companies saw a drop of around 60 percent between 2007 and the end of '08, depending upon where they were. What we have seen is a gradual improvement, a slow recovery. Most aggregate companies are operating now in the realm of 50 percent of their peak production before '07. at varies by market, of course, but in very few places across the country are companies up to 80 percent in terms of volume of aggregate being sold. is is significant because when the aggregate industry is healthy, it means the country is putting people to work and investing in the infrastructure of our country – airports, railroads, highways, ports. When you see the aggregate industry healthy, you know that infrastructure is being built so this country can stay competitive. ere is a tremendous corollary between those two. e aggregate industry is a fundamental staple of the country's competitiveness. CED: A marker of the nation's competitiveness? Luck: Absolutely. We are compet- ing with other countries. If you look at the infrastructure work they are doing in places like Brazil and India, you can see the difference. In this country, a Ford assembly plant down in the Norfolk (Va.) area closed partly because it couldn't get just-in-time inventory through two tunnels that serviced it. Infrastructure restricted that factory. ere are numerous examples of bottlenecks in inventory and infrastructure that prevent the country from being as competitive as it could be, and should be. CED: In respect to infrastructure, Congress is once again considering a multiyear transportation funding bill. How many years and dollars should the bill contain? Luck: Currently we are spending about $50-53 billion annually on surface transportation programs and we need a minimum of $60 billion a year just to maintain what we have, to maintain current infrastructure. Yet one out of four bridges is in critical need of repair. And when you look forward, some organizations are forecasting a 25 percent increase in vehicular traffic by 2030 and a 60 percent increase in traffic in large commercial vehicles. ere is no agree- ment on what the funding level should be, but there are some different propo- sals out there. e Obama administra- tion is proposing $478 billion over six years, or about $80 billion a year. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a bill calling for $1 trillion over 5 years. e ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) is saying we need $3.6 trillion by 2020. At the [NSSGA], we believe what we need is a six-year bill that spends $170 billion dollars a year. You replace bridge infrastructure. You increase highway capacity. We need more bypasses, more roads widened, roads that link development with business, recreation, ports, factories, airports. e point is that $60 billion a year just The Road to Reason, and The Path to Potential Luck Companies' President and CEO Charlie Luck, who is NSSGA's 2015 chairman, sits down with CED to talk about policy that's good for America, and processes that are good for people. 26 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | April 2015 A big part of it is the inability to see that the transportation bottleneck is growing at an accelerating rate.