January 1, 2013
By Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
Since 2004, we’ve been asking operators to report year-end business results, as well as expectations for the coming year, and sharing those results in our annual forecast. Typically, we send out the survey in late October or early November, but since 2012 was a presidential election year, we held the survey until a day after the election. Given the passionate opinions held by many of our readers, we simply couldn’t ask for business predictions before the presidential race had been determined.
Knowing that the outcome wasn’t what many of our readers hoped for, it was with no small amount of trepidation that we sent out this year’s survey. There was certainly a risk that voter dissatisfaction would be reflected in the survey responses and, potentially, skew the results. While there are signs that the presidential race may have had a slight impact on responses, overall results don’t appear to be particularly pessimistic. They indicate improving conditions for many, but certainly not all, operators. For business ratings by region, core product, and annual production, see the forecast on page 24.
In addition to production-related questions, we ask about core challenges facing operators throughout the nation. As with every year we’ve asked this question, competition for sales took the top spot among responses, with 85.2 percent describing it as a problem. Regulatory compliance and environmental issues tied as the second greatest challenges for operators, with an overall 62.4 percent saying these were problem areas. Of the two, more operators (20.8 percent) were likely to say that regulatory compliance was a major concern, compared to 18.8 percent of operators reporting that environmental issues posed a major challenge. The environmental category was added to this year’s survey based on our reader interest survey conducted this summer. Given the strong response to this category, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s aggressive stance in recent years clearly creates a challenge for a growing number of operators. It was most frequently cited by operators in the West (72.8 percent) and Northeast (71.4 percent).
Rounding out the top five problems facing producers were regulatory fines (61.4 percent) and aggregates availability/permitting (50.5) percent. Areas not considered high trouble spots for operators include community relations (30.7 percent), safety (34.7 percent), and retaining workers (39.6 percent). It’s particularly interesting to note that, while safety is a high priority at most operations, only 1 percent of respondents consider it to be a major problem. This correlates to improvements in safety records across the industry.
To all our readers taking the time to respond to our survey, thank you. Whether your business results were excellent or poor, your feedback, which is incredibly consistent from year to year, allows operators throughout the United States to benchmark their business results.