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Dennis Coker, Natural Resource Partners

First of all, congratulations. How do you feel about receiving the Mark S. Walsh Award?

It is definitely an honor to be considered in the same group as previous Mark S. Walsh Award winners such as Paul Mellott Jr., Rich Blake, Bill Sandbrook and Charlie Luck IV, to name just a few. These are all people who have had a positive impact on the industry throughout their careers, and I believe they all lead by example. Hopefully we can all follow the standard they and the other Mark S. Walsh Award winners have set.

Why is the Young Leaders organization so important to the industry? 

It is a group that brings together industry professionals from all over the United States, and occasionally other countries in a relaxed setting where they can take the opportunity to learn from others in the aggregates industry, as well as learn new ideas from the presenters, that they can take back to their jobs and utilize immediately. The Young Leaders Council is a cross section of the aggregates business. The group is made up of sales, operations, and finance professionals from public companies, private companies and has both producers and suppliers. After every previous Young Leaders meeting I went to, when I got back to the office, I was able to apply something I had learned in the seminars and presentations, improving my performance in some way. Being involved in the Young Leaders enabled me to perform at a higher level at work, and gave me the opportunity to establish a broad network with other industry professionals and develop real friendships with many of those same people.

How did you get involved in Young Leaders?

Bob Sells, who I worked with at Centex Construction Products at the time, recommended I go to the meeting. He had attended many of the first YLC meetings regularly, before he “graduated” from the Young Leaders. He said it was a great group of people and that the meetings had a lot to offer professionally. He was right, and after I attended several annual meetings, I decided to try and get on the steering committee. That eventually led to me being chairman of the Young Leaders, and that involvement helped lead to me getting more involved with the NSSGA as a whole, where I now serve as treasurer. 

What do you like best about the organization’s annual meeting? 

I think a key to the continued success is that it offers something for both first time attendees and those who have been to several annual meetings. Another benefit is that many of the activities and presentations are interactive, and geared to offer something not just to the industry professional, but also their spouse. My wife, Virginia, went to almost every YLC annual meeting with me. We both made friends over the years and both learned something at the meetings. Some of the key presentations we both remember and have used over the years were focused on communication skills, time management and how to deal with different personality types. It became a trip we planned to make every year.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming young leaders?

Get involved. Go to the YLC meetings and be ready to learn and interact with other young professionals. You will learn things you can apply in your job, you will make new friends and you really will be part of the industry’s future leaders.

How does Natural Resource Partners empower its young leaders?

We hire talented people that we believe can grow into more senior roles. We give them the tools they need to do their job, and we are there to assist them as needed, and help them advance in their careers while focusing on improving the bottom line.

How is technology changing the way the aggregates industry works?

I think it is allowing the industry to utilize more automation, increasing efficiency, while giving us the ability to more accurately track costs and productivity. It is allowing producers to more easily and accurately load customers, track shipments and coordinate activities between sales and production. This should all lead to improved results in profitability.

In what ways can the Young Leaders “lead” the industry into the future?

The Young Leaders Group needs to continue offering the types of seminars and activities that allow its members to develop leadership and management skills to improve their performance at work, and allows them to build a network of industry associates with whom they can exchange ideas and work to help them and their companies become more successful in the aggregates industry. The group has done this for years, and results can be seen in the board members of the NSSGA as well as the senior management of public and private companies in the industry.