In this episode, Gregg Lewis, Executive Vice President, Promotion Strategy and Communications of National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, sits down with Mike Ireland, President and CEO of the Portland Cement Association. In their conversation, Mike and Gregg discuss the relationship between the cement and concrete industries, how the two are working together for a greener future, and what the future looks like for both.
Welcome everyone, to the fourth episode of Concrete Credentials for season two. I’m Gregg Lewis. And today we have the pleasure of talking with President and Chief Executive Officer of the Portland Cement Association, Mr. Mike Ireland. There’s so much amazing progress being made by the cement producers across the U.S. and around the world that there may not be a more opportune time to hear from Mr. Ireland. As a result of his leadership and vision, Mike, has rallied his membership to focus on opportunities available now, and in the near future where the cement and concrete industries are working more closely than ever to drive down the embodied carbon in our products.
We’ll have a chance to ask him about those efforts and a number of the other areas where we can all celebrate what the future holds for the ways that we build buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure with cement and concrete. Good morning, Mike, and welcome to Concrete Credentials.
Thank you, Gregg. Pleasure to be here.
Awesome. So to start us off today, I’m hoping you can give our audience some insight into your background, a little bit of your history and how you found yourself at the helm of the cement industry PCA as both president and CEO.
Well, that’s a great question. I’m sitting in my house, like many of us have been doing for the last year and a half or so, in Arnold, Maryland, which is actually where I grew up, it became circular as I got here, but it’s very interesting. My very first job was helping a carpenter / builder build his house and other projects he worked on. And that was my introduction to concrete. I helped him with a wheelbarrow, do my own ready-mix concrete, so to speak. I went to school, I graduated in industrial education and industrial engineering, kind of a co-major. Worked for in the association world for, well, I should say, first, worked as a consultant in highway construction, then did work in the association world, got hired there with the American Traffic Safety Services Association, actually.
And so I’ve been around building and construction for a long time, the last 30 years or so. Worked in engineering and construction related associations or societies. So I had a nice background in concrete, had a love for concrete. This job became open and I was thrilled, delighted to work here for PCA, and really for PCA and the rest of the industry. Concrete is a wonderful material and it’s a pleasure doing it.
They had no idea that you had those roots in engineering and construction and concrete early on. So I appreciate you giving me a little bit of that in our audience. A little bit of that background. What I’d like to do is talk a little bit about some of the recent efforts, cross over at NRMCA down the hall, in some cases, we’ve watched with great interest the development of PCA’s Shaped by Concrete Program.
My view is that Shaped by Concrete is really a celebration of the ways that concrete and the cement industries have provided not only the very foundations of civilization keys to human health and economic development around the world. Can you share with us how PCA developed the program and where you’re headed with this important effort?
Oh, I would love to. I mentioned COVID a little earlier and apparently COVID has just been intertwined with everything we’ve done, but we started the Shaped by Concrete campaign a little over a year ago, really around Las Vegas with World Concrete. But we, as an initial rollout, we really did it at our joint event in March when we closed down Vegas before COVID. Folks that were there probably remember a lot of the materials we’ve put out. What happened is obviously with that year, with the focus on COVID on presidential elections and other issues, we decided to put a pause on it.
We still did some, but we’ve really decided the best time to relaunch it was when there’d be people listening to it and wouldn’t get drowned out in the noise. So we’ve relaunched Shaped by Concrete, really in an effort now to support our sustainability effort. There is a Shaped by Concrete site with materials there. We still promote concrete. Cement and concrete really is an industry that is sustainable, resilient, and necessary.
But now we’re wrapping that kind of around sustainability. I would say one thing, it is not a replacement for Build with Strength. It actually is coordinated with Build with Strength. As you know, Build with Strength has a focus really on the end users, close to the market of concrete, helping the decision-makers use concrete. Shaped by Concrete, really has an audience that’s a little bit more of the public, but also legislators, regulators, those that we really need to get our message across on all of concrete and cement. So the two play hand in hand very well, we support Build with Strength. We admire what Build with Strength has been doing.
Particularly lately, there’s a lot of great things, including the Habitat for Humanity and other things. I think Build with Strength, it’s kind of expanding and looking at different ways to reach its market. So we’re looking at ways really now to get the message out about our road mapping with climate and sustainability. We’ve had a lot of success lately and earned media and the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, NPR, others. We really see a lot of people now reaching out to us, particularly now that we’ve crafted an ambition statement and road-mapped carbon neutrality. They see an interest here, particularly with this industry.
So it’s great to get a little bit of that background from your perspective, as Shaped by Concrete is developed, and of course, in light of the way things have unfolded in the last well, the year, a little over a year with the pandemic, it’s made it maybe more challenging in some ways, but I think PCA and NRMCA, you mentioned both with strength and I think you’re right.
I think the efforts that we’re engaged in, in NRMCA, and now with the PCAs Shaped by Concrete program, we’ve got two, I think excellent programs to begin to get the message out there and talk about the great work that our industries continue to do. And so, we have worked together, PCA and NRMCA to ensure our communities are made aware of all of that good work.
So the question, I guess is, there is another initiative as well, and you touched on it very briefly, Mike, and I’m going to ask you to dive down a little bit and that’s this roadmap to carbon neutrality. And not a day goes by that I don’t see some news from your member companies driving innovation in addressing this vitally top. So I’m hoping you can share with us how that roadmap is being developed and what it means for not only our industries, of course, but for this and future generations.
Right. Well, if you go back and you look at the purpose really of our association PCA, it really is two things, to help, particularly, with concrete industry and NRMCA to create a market demand for the product, to demonstrate that even though concrete is the most consumed man-made product on earth, there still is more need for it. As population grows, as we look at competing materials and sometimes the sketchy story they may tell about their product, we obviously see the need to create more demand for the product. And we do that a lot with our coalitions, with you and ACPA and other associations.
So for us, the other really important thing we do is ensure that we have license to operate. So what that kind of means is we’ve got to, to put it in simple terms, we’ve got to make sure that there actually is a concrete business. So right now, perhaps the biggest issue we face as a society, but also I think as cement and concrete is what are we doing about sustainability and climate? It certainly is a huge issue for my kids. And just about anybody, but really the next generation.
So what we’re doing is back in the fall PCA leadership crafted an ambition statement, as PCA members continue to drive down the carbon intensity of their operations and products, PCA will develop a roadmap by the end of 2021 to facilitate its member companies achieving carbon neutrality across the concrete value chain by 2050. Now, the good news is we’ve been driving fast and furious to identify the basic levers and corresponding CO2 reductions on that roadmap. And although our ambition was to craft the roadmap by the end of the year, the amazing news is we just finished the basic roadmap.
We’re now moving into the implementation phase. Now, PCA created a climate and sustainability council to oversee five task groups around the five Cs, clinker, cement, concrete, construction, and what most people don’t even realize, which is a fantastic attribute of concrete is to absorb CO2 or carbonation from the atmosphere throughout its lifetime, much like a live tree. So anyway, we worked on this. What’s really also amazing is we identified these five Cs and CO2. It became clear that it’s achievable.
This just isn’t some pie in the sky ambition statement. This is something the industry can actually do, and we can do it before 2050, if we need to, if we do it across the value chain, and if we get help from the government. So real quickly, because I think your listeners are probably most interested in that and the five levers, but particularly the lever called concrete. I don’t want to neglect the fact that NRMCA was heavily involved on the concrete and construction task groups that created this.
We didn’t go off and do it all on our own. We knew that it needed the whole value chain to meet our ambitious goal. So several of the NRMCA staff and the members were involved particularly on the concrete and construction side. So on the clinker side, we’d want to use more and increased carbonated and pre-calcinated raw materials. Either our efficiency gains, we can look at fuel switching and fuel substitution, transformative fuels and technologies like plasma heating and hydrogen. And of course, probably the biggest lever is the one that everybody talks about as carbon capture utilization and storage.
There is a lot of technology now being tested on the carbon capture side. It started years ago, really in the coal industry. Some of that is transportable. Some of it has to be obviously tweaked for implant, but there are a lot of ways to do it, but it is expensive. I think our bigger issue going forward is once we’ve done that, once we’ve captured that carbon, what do we do with it? How do we utilize it? Where do we sequester it? And more importantly right now, how do you transport it? You’ve got it. Where does it go?
So we’re going to need help from the government. There’s a lot of industries that can use CCUS, but you’re going to have to send it somewhere. And that creates pipelines, which right now sometimes is a dirty word with the same people that want to clean up the atmosphere. So we’ve got some education to do there. As far as cement goes, we’d want to use, try to use less clicker and cement, universal, except an adoption of PLCs. We’ll talk about that I hope in a minute.
New cements, zero emissions transports continue on standards and specifications. And here’s where the third C on concrete, I think your members would be really interested, obviously that improves what goes into concrete at the batch plant, increase in supplementary, cementitious materials like slag, fly ash, silica, fume, and other additives, reduce concrete plant energy consumption, reduce concrete delivery energy consumption. I know that there’s technology there that allows you obviously to use greener fuel in both cases.
And of course, there’s a lot of people looking at breakthrough technologies and concrete production. And finally, the one that goes beyond both of us in a sense is what happens at the construction site. Are there ways that we can reduce CO2 there. Again, we have a lot of this technology that’s been developed or is it developing, for example, in design with 3D modeling, virtual reality design onto the construction site, zero waste, better sequencing, better scheduling, zero emission delivery. On the use side, focus on appropriate use of VPDs and LCCAs.
And at the end of life, I think everybody, but particularly, the construction industry needs to recognize concrete as a carbon sink. And it’s something that it does throughout its lifecycle, cradle to cradle.
I mean, I think you put a nice bow on it there, Mike. All of those elements that are so key to what we do and so exciting to hear the way that our industries are working together to innovate around those issues, and address them. And I’m delighted to hear the progress that’s being made from you here today, but also obviously from my NRMCA colleagues. So this is the roadmaps and other, obviously a very exciting initiative, but it holds great promise. But these two efforts that we’ve talked about so far, the Shaped by Concrete Program, and this roadmap to carbon neutrality, those two things really, I think more so than say a year ago or whatever are really synced up pretty nicely. Can you talk about how those two things intersect or overlap and what that means for where we’re headed?
Well, yeah, again, I think with Build with Strength some of the other efforts, we continue to tell our story to the marketplace. And I think Shaped by Concrete will be a piece of that. But really for us, we’ve got a lot of audiences for what we’re doing here. And the first audience for us really are those that we collaborate with down through the value chain. It’s NRMCA, it’s other concrete producers, it’s people in the construction industry. You guys are the face of cement and concrete out to the world. You’re also the one taking the brunt of the questions about how can you be greener? So part of our initial communication efforts is going to be down, screw the value chain.
It’s going to be working with you. It’s going to be producing a number of materials, kind of old fashioned materials talking points, sheets, those kinds of things, but also a plethora of multi-media and internet. I should say, a multimedia and things that you can put on the website, put things you can put on social media, a number of videos, talking points. I mean, it’s just kind of being, we’re going to flood you guys I think, with tools that you can use. You’re not going to want to use all of them, but I think they’re going to be specific tools you can use to who you’re communicating.
So that when your member gets asked, well, aren’t you dirty? Or how are you guys going to get greener? Concrete’s terrible. There’s certain things that we can tell you. I mean, the first thing that we want to tell you as we get really the facts straight and use a common lexicon and jargon is it, I think you’ve heard over and over for the past couple of years that concrete is responsible for 8% of the greenhouse gases. It’s just not true.
And it’s a circular research document that doesn’t exist. It’s just one journalist reference saying other journalist. What we’ve found is that in the United States, concrete is less than one and a half percent of the overall CO2 emissions. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to stop the roadmap. We do want to get the carbon neutral, but we got to get the story right. There’s a lot of people going around [inaudible 00:15:30]. It’s this big producer, but, well, no, it’s not as big as you’re claiming it is, but we’ve got to get those facts right. And we’ve got to start telling the story of what we’ve already been doing on the front end to reduce our overall footprint, and then what we can do together to further reduce it.
And a lot of these things are somewhat low hanging fruit. Things that we can focus on together, particularly NRMCA and PCA, things like PLC. For the cement plant, it’s more use of alternative fuels instead of waste products going into landfills where it creates methane or plastic bottles being dumped into the ocean. We can use those. So just by those two things, just by PLCs, we can see a 10% reduction almost immediately. That’s big to point to.
And then by using alternative fuels, there’s another 10% to 15% right there. These are things that can happen in the next few years to get to carbon neutral. So there’s a lot of things we can do. There’s a lot of excitement there. There’s a lot of those things we can do across the value chain, but I’m rambling because I love this topic. But I will say that yes, the Shaped by Concrete is going to be a resource for everybody in the value chain, define the messaging they need. And then we can also use that obviously to the broader audience as we want to reach, whether that’s the general public or it’s legislators or regulators, et cetera.
You and I, of course, many others in our industries have been frustrated by the misinformation that’s been out there. And I’m glad to hear you talk about it the way that you are, because we’re going to continue to make great progress. And our industries are obviously committed to doing that, but you’re right. Getting the story straight first and explaining to folks the value of what we offer to the economy, to our civilization, to people’s health, so forth, it’s vital that we get right.
Yeah. And I think that one of the things that is important for us is to find champions who are outside of our industry. We’ve been telling our own story. And then again, that’s one of the things I think I see within NRMCA, you’re going outside of the normal channels to find people that can advocate for us so you wouldn’t think normally would. What greater storyteller for concrete and cement than to find somebody like a Bill Gates or to find and NGO out there who’s seen as green and sustainable carrying the message for concrete, about us being the resilient and sustainable and durable building material. People will just look at us and say, “Well, you work for them, you’re telling the story.” Well, the story tells itself, which makes it easier for us to go out and find other storytellers for the industry. And I think that will be part of the communications campaign as well.
Agreed, it takes a lot of conversations to kind of redirect folks to what’s actually going on, what the reality is and where we’re headed soon. Look, that’s the main reason I wanted to have you on this morning, because you’re looking at this through the lens of the cement producers in part, but we cannot separate concrete and cement, there’s so much good information that we have such a good story to tell that I felt like having you on here would allow us to do that in a more comprehensive way.
Oh, and it’s very clear, I would say there’s a lot of people that don’t know the difference between cement and concrete, including my wife who talks about the cement mixers, going down the route, she knows better. I just tease her, but there are a lot of people that don’t know the difference, but we can’t sell cement without concrete obviously. There are some limited uses for cement, but the majority of it obviously is in concrete.
So we are intertwined. The sustainability story still, most of it goes back to cement. And so we’re this symbiotic relationship where we rely on each other. So that is why our story is Shaped by Concrete. No one, if we pulled out Shaped by Cement, no one would know what we’re talking about. The world is shaped by concrete. And of course we, with our aggregative friends, certainly believe a lot in concrete and support concrete.
It’s important to note, I think that PCA and the leadership of your member companies really are driving with, I would say with real purpose to address these sustainability topics. And it seems this could be considered the challenge of our time. And we do have the [inaudible 00:19:46], well, at least this morning to look more closely at the waste, the cement industry is digging into that challenge. Would you give us a sense of how the focus on sustainability has grown?
And I want to talk about how your focus on it has informed new product development. So for example, I’m thinking about, you said PLC, that’s obviously Portland-limestone cement for those who haven’t heard that acronym before, and in other areas of innovation that you get excited about your day, what are some of those things? And can you talk a little bit more about those for us?
Sure. Well, I would say as we talk about PLC a little bit first, it’s not really a new product or innovation. It’s been around for a few decades. It’s been extensively used in Europe and very successfully. For us it’s just really about creating some knowledge that the material exists and the demand. A lot of people have just like, oh, well, we use same old concrete. We always use same old concrete. Why would we change?
Like I said before, well, it’s kind of right there. It’s engineered with a higher limestone content, but essentially it’s still Portland Cement. So for your members, there’s not much that they have to do at the plant. It’s the same product, similar mix design, same manufacturing process. They can reach out to their same supplier who has it. There’s nothing real tricky about it. And the cost is competitive for PLC with regulars. It gives specifiers, architects, engineers, and producers and designers, a greener way to execute any structured paving or geo-tech project. And we know that’s what they want. Well, here again, you could do this almost tomorrow, if you want that 10% saving, and again, with no modifications to the mix design or placing procedures.
And we talk about it, it’s kind of like Coke and new Coke or Diet Coke. It’s similar product just with a little bit less CO2. And it still keeps the same resilience, sustainability, everything you really come to expect from Portland Cement. So rather than doing the whole commercial, I guess I should say, there is an explanatory website, greenercement.com or greenercement.org. Same site contains all the facts, seats, the calculators, how to get it specified, et cetera. But one of the success rates there, as we’ve been pushing this through the state EOTs, and almost two thirds of the DLTs now, accept it as an alternative. And we’d also like to thank you guys for educating the members as well about PLC.
Yeah it’s not just educating the membership. I mean, the biggest challenge I think, and I’m an architect, you know that, but as a trained architect I think in working in the field, there is too often, I think tendency just reuse the same spec over and over again. And part of what this is about educating the specifiers, and we’ve been working on that initiative for a long time, we’ll continue to do that. And having that PLC as part of the mix, no pun intended, really, I think help the design community to do a better job and drive this sustainability and carbon neutrality roadmap and effort.
Yeah. You’re also a communications guy. I would have pegged you that as first, although you kind of look like the typical architect. Just the handsome guy with the glasses and all that. But I would say, yes, we really need to focus on, particularly with architects, specifiers and builders this life cycle cost analysis. So there’s obviously lifecycle on the cost side that we’ve been talking about a lot, particularly, through MIT.
And you look at it from cradle to cradle and it certainly when you start looking at the whole cost there from a cost perspective, it is a great choice. But the same thing applies with climate sustainability. You’ve got to look at the whole life cycle cost of that carbon. And so I know we’ve been working together on EPDs and then those types of things, but those still aren’t really, we have a lot of work to go there to get those, to really look at the life cycle cost across the whole value chain from mining for us or harvesting or milling for other types of materials, all the way to the point of building.
But the life after that and what it means for the building and what it means for energy and what it means at the end of life and reuse, people are just taking that slice because they’ve been given that slice. And I think for us, that’s still, that’s an education and communication thing. There’s not anything we have to do for the stories right there. We just have to tell the whole story.
Yeah. We’re definitely getting there, we’ve gotten a lot better, I think, at doing that and working together to make sure we’re both sort of, well, we’ve been edited in the right direction and in a good direction, but it’s more about just telling the story as it is today. So there are a couple of things. It’s the demand side, we talked about specifiers, educating specifiers. I mean, I do, but do you anticipate an increase in PLC usage here in the near future?
Yeah. Well, we certainly hope so. I think part of that is just getting the word out, part of that is educating the specifiers and others, but it’s again, is folks want greener. It’s a low-hanging fruit, it’s an easy solution right now to get to greener. Again, you talk about a 10% savings. It’s not 100%, but it’s 10%. And again, that’s the beauty kind of the roadmap. It’s not CCUS is obviously a big player, but there’s 10%, 15% reductions across the value chain. And this is one of the ones that we can do almost immediately.
So again, I think if we ramp up our sales pitch in a sense to the specifiers as we have been to the DLTs and say, this is easy, we can do this right away. So that is part of our implementation plan, obviously from the government on down. And we really will be looking at you guys to tell those that you’re selling concrete to, that there’s a way to do that’s not necessarily a magic bullet and we don’t know how it works. This is something that really has been proven and that has been adopted and can show real gains on the CO2 front.
Yep, absolutely. I’m going to take this opportunity to pivot slightly to infrastructure. We’re several months into a new administration there in D.C., obviously TCA and NRMCA have been advocating to get an infrastructure bill passed. We’ve been doing that for a while now, so we can update some of our nation’s aging infrastructure, highways, bridges, roads, and so forth. And I’m curious how you see those discussions going in Washington and ultimately, where you see them heading.
Well, you could probably go crazy or lose sleep or both if you paid attention to it, minute by minute or hour by hour. As long as I’ve been in DC, it seems, there’s always been talk around infrastructure. And we’re getting, we get service transportation bills passed and we get word of bills passed, but we’ve never had kind of an overall all-encompassing discussion about infrastructure.
What’s really sad is that polls show that over 80% of people want it. What’s sad is that both Democrats and Republicans want it and independents want it. I think I would say now, I think I am probably more hopeful than I’ve ever been, that something is going to happen this year. I’m not saying the stars have aligned magically, but I do think there is enough political pressure on both parties to get something done and show that they can get something done on a critical issue to Americans. So there will be arguments about pay fours and how much it costs and there’ll be political posturing.
One thing I think about Biden a little bit is he’s an old school guy. He reminds me of my trips to Mexico when I want to buy a sombrero. I start with 10 pesos and he starts with 100 pesos and somewhere around 50 or 60 pesos after I’ve threatened to walk away a few times. That’s old school, Washington, DC. I’m not sure that isn’t happening right now. And of course the press runs with every comment from everybody, but I’ve seen lately, particularly in the past couple weeks, some sides kind of getting closer. I think, again, it all depends on a few votes and a few processes here to what the end game is and the political game, but I’m pretty confident that for basic infrastructure, we’re going to see something. The stuff that is really the meat potatoes of what we do, right?
I also will say that look, it may not be as much concrete involved in some of these new definitions of infrastructure, but there is concrete there in almost everything. I mean, I can, we are the most ubiquitous man produced product on earth. So we are almost in everything. People don’t notice where we are anymore because we’re everywhere, but concrete is everywhere.
So I think any kind of infrastructure by traditional and even other types is just going to increase obviously the demand for our product. And I am fairly confident that these guys are going to get there. The next question would be when, our staffs worked pretty furiously on this one as well. The NRMCA DC staff and the PCA DC staff. We also have a coalition called the North American Concrete Alliance where we have some of the other concrete producers. We are both part of the highway materials group. We’re both part of larger, the TCC and other coalitions.
I mean, there’s many coalitions in Washington DC as cicadas, we used to have cicadas. Everybody’s pushing on it and it’s not just construction and highway folks. It’s the users. It’s the truck drivers. It’s the public. Everybody’s demanding it, everybody wants it. I think at the end of the day, most everybody will be happy to pay for it either through a gas tax or another tax.
I mean, we want it and we’re willing to pay for it. It would be amazing if we can get it done. We’ve said that before. So again, I am not overly confident, but I am hopefully optimistic that we’re going to be in a place where we see a demand. Obviously we have an economist here at PCA, at Sullivan, he does his forecast. He certainly sees us continuing to be on a pace about two, two and a half percent each year. But if infrastructure is passed, that puts us at a little bit higher and a little bit, maybe a higher percentage and for a little bit longer.
So it is something that if we don’t have to worry too much about the market for a little while, we can focus, for PCA, I’m saying, we can focus on our real issue right now, which is climate sustainability. Because even if the markets well, suddenly there’s an insane carbon tax on concrete or an ability to actually create cement we’re in trouble. So those are the things that we have to watch out for.
Spot on. The work in DC, Andrew Tyrrell, on the NRMCA team, and Sean O’Neil, your guy in Washington and their teams I think have been working really well together. There’s a good partnership there. And I think a good Alliance and it’s not just, of course, the government affairs side. I think that’s just one area where NRMCA staff and PCA staff are collaborating. And I do think we’ve made great headway on working smarter and more effectively through these collaborative efforts. How do you view these efforts, Mike, and where do you think the next opportunities are as it relates to our cooperation?
Well, the past five years for me, as I came in the job, there was no talk about it in the job interview about collaboration, but for the past five years in the shop, it’s a lot of what we’ve done is collaboration. And I would say particularly with NRMCA, we have kind of stepped up and met. So a lot of people probably still don’t know that we do share some back-office. We reduced a lot of our expenses at PCA so that we can utilize overhead expenses to do things that actually move the needle for our members.
So we do share back office staff, including finance and HR and meeting planning and whatnot. And that’s been going well. Obviously in any transition, there were hiccups at the beginning, but we’ve smoothed through those. I think we’ve looked at how Build with Strength and Shaped by Concrete complement each other. And they don’t have conflicting messages. We make sure that we’re speaking as one voice across the industry and Washington, DC. I was saying we share office space and Andrew will come into the DC office. So we’ll live walk from ACPA. He’s got an office there.
Pre-COVID, there was a lot of collaboration face-to-face, there’s still obviously some collaboration face-to-face as we get out of COVID, but they were able to do that virtually as well. So I think it’s great. Mike and I, Mike Phillips and I talk every couple of weeks. I think we would both like to perhaps have a conversation one day in a golf course. But other than that, I think we do talk, we go through our common issues and make sure everything’s working. I know Gregg, you talk with Nick Ferrari from our communications team almost weekly about-
Yeah, great guy.
… plans and coordination, and I know our market development staffs talk to each other about what’s going out in the field. We’re having a promoters conference with you guys at the end of August to talk about again, using these tools, including climate sustainability down at the local level. So I think there really is a lot of coordination and communication going on between.
It’s started to be, I think actually a whole lot of fun. Mike Phillips said pre-pandemic, and I remember him talking about this and [inaudible 00:33:32] they get out of bat the pandemic [inaudible 00:33:34], as we all are. And he says, “We’re going to have some fun.” And I think a lot of that started to materialize and it’s been, I think, fun for many of us working on these issues together. Are there other items or other activities that you all are working on at PCA that you can share with the audience?
Well, I think again, the primary ones, I think we’ve talked about, again, on the infrastructure front climate sustainability, market development, we work with you, either communication programs, again, are similar. That’s what we’re working on. And the other big thing in our strategic plan is that coordination. And I think we’ve highlighted that coordination. Well, again, I talked a little bit earlier about my career and starting again, I was a 15-year-old kid doing work for a builder and then going through a career where I was doing infrastructure with state DOTs and then got into this weird world of associations. I don’t think anybody grows up and says, I want to be an association executive. But it’s been a great career path for me because I’m doing something for something I love.
And I think there are in Washington, DC about 200,000 different associations and societies and some were pretty weird, maybe a little sketchy. You wonder how it would work for that one. But we have a great product. We have great partners. We came through COVID, going back to our government affairs teams, they fought nationally and locally to make sure that cement and concrete were deemed essential business. So that’s the reason why I think, not only survived, we did pretty well during the COVID year.
And I think our product will be important for decades to come, because only concrete provides a solution to the grand challenges that face our world. As we battle climate change, as we look at housing and urbanization, as we look at infrastructure needs, as we look at clean water, all of the grand challenges that face a whole world, including the United States, there’s a reason that right in the middle of that. We’re really the only man-made product that can meet those goals together. It can be sustainable, resilient, and durable and meet those challenges. So it’s a great job.
I think you’ve said it’s fun. And I think we do have fun because not only are we a bunch of fun people, but we have member companies that are just as committed as we are. And so we talked a lot about, the very beginning you introduced me as the leader with a vision and all that, I think it’s our members that are leaders, our members that have that vision of where they want to go and we help facilitate that. So it’s wonderful to be employed in this industry because we’re doing so much good for a great product.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. So I think we’re coming up on the end of our time. Mike, obviously I’ve enjoyed this. I hope you have. Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us this morning.
I will. Thank you, anytime.
So I would like to end today’s podcast by thanking our listeners. We are always looking for feedback and suggestions as to how we can improve the podcast and hope you will subscribe to Concrete Credentials, which as you know is available wherever you get your podcasts. I look forward to having you join us for more new content in just a few weeks. See you then.