Market is Hitting the Jackpot

March 29, 2007

With shopping lists in hand, attendees did not forget to buy at ConExpo-Con/Agg this time around.

More than 124,220 industry professionals sank their teeth into the excitement generated by the 2005 event, which also included the IFPE show. Many of the exhibitors were reporting sales right on the show floor. It was a sharp contrast from the 2002 ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas. That display, held in the midst of a recession, pulled in just 108,770 attendees.

With shopping lists in hand, attendees did not forget to buy at ConExpo-Con/Agg this time around.

More than 124,220 industry professionals sank their teeth into the excitement generated by the 2005 event, which also included the IFPE show. Many of the exhibitors were reporting sales right on the show floor. It was a sharp contrast from the 2002 ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas. That display, held in the midst of a recession, pulled in just 108,770 attendees.

“(Attendees) came with a shopping list with the full intent that they were going to kick some tires and fill orders,” said Brent Cook, senior vice president for Aggregate Industries.

“This really is a testimony as to how our economy is improving,” commented Gerald Shaheen, group president for Caterpillar Inc. “This industry has a lot of buoyancy right now. I think every manufacturer and supplier here found it to be a great experience. You could sense it.”

Even though 2005 ConExpo-Con/Agg fell just short of the all-time attendance record (124,260 set in 1999), several milestones were raised. Both the ConExpo-Con/Agg (1.88 million net sq ft) and IFPE (111,670 net sq ft) shows covered a record-breaking amount of exhibit space. International attendance also was at an all-time high—21,220—and the two exhibitions hosted a record 44 official international customer delegations, representing 35 countries. For the first time in more than a decade, an Iraqi delegation of more than 40 business people walked the aisles. Officials estimated more than 250 million lb of freight was moved.

More space is on the way. Las Vegas Convention Center officials announced a $400 million expansion project, which would add 100,000 sq ft to the South Hall by 2008.

Expanding the scope of the shows, however, is not in the works.

“When you get beyond your size and you get beyond your focus it really gets confusing,” said Shaheen. “Right now I think this show is very focused, and that in itself creates a lot of value.”

Signs of a re-energized marketplace was evident everywhere at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Before ConExpo-Con/Agg opening day ceremonies on March 15 Komatsu and JCB were boasting about higher sales in 2004. Komatsu, which closed its FY 2004 book this month, was reporting a 30-35% growth in retail activity compared with FY 2003.

“The North American market will record larger sales than any other region in the world (for Komatsu),” said David Grzelak, chairman and CEO of Komatsu America Corp.

JCB reported 27% growth in the North American market and overall produced a record 37,000 machines last year.

“We’re looking to capitalize in the North American market,” said Helmut Peters, president of JCB. “We’re looking to produce 40,000 machines this year.”

Terex Corp. announced impressive gains as well later in the week. The manufacturer reported growth of 28% in FY 2004 vs. FY 2003 and claimed it was on target to meet a 2006 goal of $6 billion in total revenue.

“In a period of just nine years we’ve gone from lime green trucks to a wide array of products,” said Ron DeFeo, chairman and CEO of Terex. “And we’re still looking to grow in areas like loader backhoes, mini excavators and asphalt pavers.”

Reauthorization progresses thru Congress, racing deadline

Congress is once again heading for a collision with a deadline on a comprehensive reauthorization of transportation funding. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century expired on Sept. 30, 2003. The latest extension to it expires on May 31. The latest estimate by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is that the Senate will pass its version of the reauthorization bill in late April, before a recess May 2-9. That leaves only a few weeks to reach an agreement in a House-Senate conference committee.

Markup of the highway and transit titles of the bill was completed in the Senate on March 16, according to AASHTO. The funding level was the same as the $283.9 billion level proposed by the Bush administration and approved on March 10 by a vote of 417-9 in the House. Floor action in the Senate was not expected until mid-April.

The Senate Finance Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee also have to have their say before the overall bill, titled the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 (SAFETEA), can be considered on the Senate floor.

The floor debate could include an attempt to increase the funding level, AASHTO said. While the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved their highway and transit parts of the bill by a vote of 17-1, leaders made it clear that they hope to see a move on the Senate floor to raise its funding levels.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), committee chair, said he would support such a move to gain room for conference negotiations with the House. During markup, Inhofe and Ranking Minority Member Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said they look to the Finance Committee for ideas on ways to increase funding for the bill.

Other committee members said they were not completely satisfied with the total funding package, but added the compromise on SAFETEA offers the best chance to get a bill approved and into conference with House members after 18 months of delay.

“It’s time to finish the process,” said Ranking Minority Member James Jeffords (I-Vt.). “The main obstacle was the administration’s insistence on inadequate funding levels. We can do better and boost funding levels.”

Baucus said he and Finance Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) plan to address increasing SAFETEA funding beyond the $283.9 billion level, according to AASHTO. “Frankly, we need more money,” Baucus said. “It’s not a perfect bill, but we’re near the last chance and funding levels must be increased.”

AASHTO said several committee members cited the frustration being expressed by state transportation officials because the succession of short-term extensions of federal aid programs has left them unable to proceed with long-range major projects. Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said passage of transportation reauthorization will allow transportation projects in his state to move forward, resulting in more than 4,000 jobs. Baucus said transportation reauthorization would yield 11,000 jobs in Montana.

The bill largely mirrors the $318 billion S. 1072, passed by the Senate last year, with funding levels reduced by about 10% to conform to the White House’s $284 billion funding limit.

During the markup, 13 amendments were included in a managers’ package and voted as a bloc, including provisions to expand the Transportation Systems Management and Operations program to all surface modes and to provide that projects for hurricane-evacuation routes are eligible for assistance under the Infrastructure Performance and Maintenance Program.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on March 17 reported the transit portion of SAFETEA, voting for $51.6 billion through fiscal year 2009.

Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said that the resources included in the bill for transit are inadequate, and expressed concern that transit security is a key issue and an unfunded burden for transit systems around the nation. Senator Thomas Carper (D-Del.) said he hopes the Senate Finance Committee can come up with funding to provide additional resources for transit.

Private consortium to help fund Trans-Texas Corridor

A consortium called Cintra-Zachry has pledged $7.2 billion toward developing the 600-mile, Oklahoma-to-Mexico portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, in Austin to announce the agreement for what she called a transportation partnership that is attracting private capital to fund transportation improvements and reduce congestion in the region.

The agreement is between the state and Cintra-Zachry, a private consortium of engineering, construction and financial firms.

“Texas is a national example for all states and a leader in unleashing the resources, innovation and efficiency of the private sector to bring transportation improvements to the public faster and at less cost to American taxpayers,” said Peters. “Public-private partnerships in transportation hold great promise in cutting the congestion that’s choking our economy and keeping families apart from one another.”

Cintra-Zachry’s section of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor will roughly parallel I-35, running north-south through the state from Oklahoma to Mexico. As envisioned, the corridor would include lanes for passenger vehicles, trucks and rail and dedicated zones for water, electric, telecommunications and other utility lines.

The Federal Highway Administration has worked with the Texas DOT on the flexibility the state needs to pursue its partnership with the private sector, said Peters.

“The Bush administration supports giving states and local governments a bigger menu of options that they can use to keep people and goods on the move.”

Ill. resource center to help minority and women contractors

The Illinois DOT was scheduled to open a resource center for minority and women contractors this month in East St. Louis, Mo., the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The goal of the center is to assist minority and women contractors in the Metro East area with information about opportunities to bid on state highway work and guidance on bidding, bonding and getting certified to bid.

A similar center opened in south Chicago in spring 2004, and the East St. Louis center has been in planning for about a year, a spokesperson for IDOT told the Post-Dispatch.

East St. Louis Mayor Carl Officer has complained in the past about under-representation of Metro East workers on highway work. He even threatened to halt work on one local bridge project if more Metro East workers were not involved in the work.

“The two large jobs they have now many of us missed out on because we didn’t know,” William Mason Sr. told the Post-Dispatch. Mason co-owns Mason Landscaping and Construction Services in East St. Louis. The resource center should help companies like Mason’s find out about upcoming work.

Desperately seeking tires

On the heels of last year’s challenges in the steel and oil markets comes a tight market for large tires of the sort used on graders, scrapers and other construction vehicles, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“It’s a global situation,” Goodyear spokesman Dave Wilkins told the Journal Sentinel. “You can just about go anywhere globally and find that the tire industry is having some difficulties supplying for all the demand that’s out there.”

One possible reason for the tire shortage, which developed just in the past year, is an increase in purchases by the federal government to support military vehicles and infrastructure rebuilding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most prominent cause, according to industry watchers, is rising worldwide demand and the inability of factories to increase production quickly.

“This demand is unprecedented in the history of the industry and was unanticipated,” Dick Wilkerson, chief operating officer for specialty product lines at Michelin North America, told the Journal Sentinel.

Manitowoc reportedly has delayed delivery of some cranes for a lack of tires and shipped some other cranes without spare tires. One Volvo dealer in Butler, Wis., received some machinery without tires.

Industry analysts expected the tire shortage to last into 2007 while the industry ramps up new production capacity.

Tunneler wins partnering award

The Associated General Contractors of America has awarded McCarthy Building Companies Inc. and Mosley Construction Inc. a 2005 Marvin M. Black Excellence in Partnering Award for their joint venture’s successful use of cooperative partnering on the $50 million Lindbergh Boulevard Tunnel project.

McCarthy/Mosley II completed the project, which is the first traffic tunnel in the state of Missouri, on budget and ahead of schedule. The six-lane, 1,420-ft-long tunnel was constructed to reroute the existing high-traffic Lindbergh Boulevard directly underneath a new runway being added to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

The Marvin M. Black Excellence in Partnering Award recognizes project ingenuity, size, scope and appearance, as well as the project team’s ability to resolve conflicts, improve communications and incorporate team-building activities.

More than 35 subcontractors and major stakeholders were involved in the project. They logged 308,389 work-hours and achieved a significant participation (25%) by minority- and women-owned businesses.

Challenges were solved through frequent, open communication and creative team solutions. For example, the team had to pour 42-in.-thick concrete walls during two harsh winters, when cracks can easily occur, to support a roof that could withstand the weight of a 1.25 million-lb aircraft. Through working lunches and weekly partnering sessions with all subcontractors, the team was able to collaborate on solutions, resulting in a final wall strength exceeding original design specifications.

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