Challenges and Opportunities

Dec. 28, 2000
Valentin J. Riva is the president of the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA). Prior to joining ACPA in August1997, he was vice president of government affairs and general counsel for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), Washington, D.C.
Valentin J. Riva is the president of the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA). Prior to joining ACPA in August1997, he was vice president of government affairs and general counsel for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), Washington, D.C. During his tenure, Riva was credited with ARTBA's federal legislative program, Public-Private Ventures Division, international market pursuits and a range of regulatory and legal endeavors. Prior to his tenure at ARTBA, Riva held similar responsibilities with the National Stone Association, the Associated General Contractors of America and the National Association of Government Employees. Riva earned a juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center and a degree in economics from the University of Maryland. ROADS & BRIDGES asked Riva to comment on a number of key issues related to the concrete pavement industry. Here's what Riva had to say:

R&B: How do you feel your previous work experiences, such as with ARTBA, will serve you as ACPA president?
Riva: Extremely well. ARTBA is a multidimensional organization, which encourages individual thinking, performance, and execution of ideas. It is an organization that encourages decisive action and thoughtful implementation–all in full coordination with the volunteer leadership–to effect change. These are skills that would be useful to any trade association or other business. These skills are especially important to us now, as we are literally on the threshold of the most promising highway authorization in the post-interstate era.

R&B: How would you characterize your first few months in office?
Riva: This is an exciting time to be in the concrete pavement industry. We have a number of opportunities that will likely never present themselves again. To seize these tremendous opportunities, we must understand and address some important challenges. We are making great strides by developing a winning strategy to increase the share of market for portland cement concrete pavement. We are increasing the level of commitment, service and support available to the ACPA's network of chapter/state paving associations. We are significantly improving the visibility and stature of the American Concrete Pavement Association. We are significantly improving our efforts to monitor and influence legislation during this pivotal year for highway reauthorization and airport improvement programs. The prevailing theme evident in all ACPA activities is to make portland cement concrete pavements the material of choice for surface transportation infrastructure.

R&B: It has been said that ACPA is transitioning from a technical association to one focused more on promotional activities aimed at increasing market share for concrete paving. Is this perception correct?
Riva: Actually, we regard the technical and promotional initiatives as being equally important end-points on the spectrum. We have always had the product, the technical resources and expertise, the communications skills, but we never aligned our resources holistically to tell our story. We now have the ability, the determination, the people and the opportunity to do so. Concrete pavement is a full-service product that has an inherent adaptability not found in any other paving product. As with any other product, however, concrete pavements require good marketing and promotion, communications, technical support and R&D.

R&B: What "road" do you see ACPA taking during the first few years of your tenure?
Riva: A highly visible one! We will make a very clear statement to the families, businesses, and other users of America's highways, streets and local roads that they are already paying for our surface transportation infrastructure each time they fill up at the gas pumps, as a result of the excise tax on motor fuels. As such, they deserve the very best pavements.

R&B: How is concrete pavement faring in the current highway authorization program?
Riva: Congress has seen to it, with the federal aid highway program, that concrete pavement should be given equal consideration as other pavement types. That recognition, in itself, represents a turning point. We welcome the change and see this as an opportunity to better align our product with current and future needs, based on the investment value of concrete pavements.

R&B: How has ACPA's presence in Washington, D.C., made the association more visible? How has this helped the concrete pavement industry?
Riva: The Federal Aid Highway Program, which represents a very significant portion of the entire highway market, is authorized and regulated in Washington, D.C., but is designed, awarded, maintained and inspected at the state level. Therefore, it makes sense to have a presence in Washington, D.C., and to work with Congress, the Federal Highway Administration and other federal agencies. Similarly, it makes sense to have a presence and work closely in the state capitals and with state agencies. Most transportation organizations have a presence in Washington. We're there to stay and our visibility is an important part of our long-term plans.

R&B: ACPA also is making a concerted effort to strengthen its relationships with its chapters. Why is this important to ACPA at this time?
Riva: The many fine professionals who staff the ACPA-affiliated chapter/state organizations are our "front line." They have the first contact with our members, state DOTs, highway departments and other specifiers and influencers. They have a tremendous job ahead and are unquestionably the best sources to address needs locally. Through effective and increasingly stronger partnerships with the chapter/states, we plan to make ours the pavement material of choice. As always, adequate resources are essential, and we will make sure they have the proper resources to do the job effectively.

R&B: We have heard that you are originally from Cuba? How has this influenced your life and your career in the industry?
Riva: This is a question that I am always glad to answer, but never able to articulate adequately. I learned at an early age to appreciate the greatness of the United States. The United States simply has no equal in the world. I am a firm believer that when a person from another country is embraced by the United States, the affection, commitment and bond are unshakable. The United States is the best nation in the world, and that's why it deserves the best of everything, including its surface transportation system.

R&B: Any final thoughts?
Riva: In this year of unprecedented challenge and opportunity for the concrete pavement industry, I am reminded of a quote I heard recently: "No helmsman is tested on calm waters." As an industry, we are undergoing tremendous changes as we usher in a new era for concrete pavements. Change is difficult to accept and manage, but we–our industry, members, chapter/state representatives–and, of course, our customers and their customers, will benefit from the changes.

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