July 19, 2017
AggMan understands that the aggregates business is comprised of local businesses throughout the nation. As such, we are focused on providing insights into local markets, as well as national markets, in print and online.
We contacted Dan Eichholz, executive director of the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers, who was kind enough to give us his take on what’s going on with the aggregates industry in the state of Illinois.
1) How would you characterize the state of the aggregates market in Illinois?
Eichholz: Mixed. The market has been fairly strong in the City of Chicago and some suburban areas where there has been significant activity in vertical construction. However, Illinois has lagged behind other Midwestern states in recovering from the Great Recession. The Illinois Tollway Authority, which operates a network of roadways in the Chicago area, is well-funded and continues to make significant infrastructure investments. On the other hand, the state and many local governments in Illinois are broke and failing to adequately maintain their roads, depressing the aggregates market in parts of the state.
2) How is Illinois addressing transportation funding?
Eichholz: Illinois is strategically located at the center of the country and has long been considered a leader in transportation infrastructure. However, in recent years, our dysfunctional state government has failed to address our inadequate funding for transportation. The motor fuel tax in Illinois has not been increased since 1990. After a two-year budget impasse, the state legislature recently overrode the governor’s veto on a budget that made our road funding problems worse by “repurposing” $266 million in Road Fund money to subsidize mass transportation — a subsidy that used to be paid from the General Revenue Fund. The Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers is part of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, which continues to put forward proposals and advocate for adequate infrastructure investment. While our Republican governor and Democrat majority leaders in both houses of our legislature indicate support of infrastructure investment, the current budget turmoil and political war have prevented action.
3) What are the big opportunities for producers in Illinois (DOT projects, commercial construction, etc.)?
Eichholz: Parts for the state are seeing opportunities from commercial projects and road resurfacing. Statewide, roads and bridges are deteriorating and a major investment in transportation infrastructure will be required in the coming years — hopefully soon. The Illinois Tollway Authority, which operates in the Chicago area, has limited projects in the pipeline for 2018, but is planning some major reconstruction and network expansion projects beginning in 2019.
4) What are the big obstacles for producers in Illinois (legislation, neighborhood groups, etc.)?
Eichholz: The biggest obstacle for Illinois producers is currently the state’s dire budget situation and political gridlock. While the recently enacted budget increased taxes for the general fund, it did not address the need for adequate road funding, the $15 billion state bill backlog, or the $130 billion in unfunded public pension liability.
5) What would you like your peers to know about aggregates production in Illinois?
Eichholz: Illinois continues to be one of the leading aggregate producing states. Illinois aggregate producers are some of the most innovative, hard-working, and honest business people anywhere. While Illinois state government is currently in shambles, and the state’s economy is lagging, an eventual investment in needed infrastructure will help turn around Illinois’ economy, and Illinois aggregate producers will help rebuild Illinois.