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Becoming a Young Leader

By Josephine Smith

I had the opportunity to attend the recent NSSGA Young Leaders Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The YL meeting is a way for the younger generation (age 40 and below) to develop leadership and management skills, build a national network of industry professionals and to discuss and address industry topics.

Being new to the industry, I was excited about the chance to attend such a great event.  Activities began on May 11, with concluding ceremonies held on May 15. I arrived at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Thursday, May 12, for the Mark S. Walsh Reception.  Brian Witmer, Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., gave a compelling speech on how the Young Leaders group is more like a family – members rely on each other in both their work and personal lives. Witmer went on to present the 2011 Mark S. Walsh Award to his good friend, Sean McLanahan, McLanahan Corp. McLanahan was praised for his activeness in politics and community service as well as his contribution to the industry. The next day, we started our morning with a community project at Feeding South Florida. The not-for-profit organization works to reduce hunger by reducing waste in South Florida. Additionally, it distributes approximately 1.8 million lb. of donated food each month. After an introductory video about the non-profit, the Young Leaders sorted and packaged donations in the organization’s warehouse.

Quarry Visit
After Feeding South Florida, we traveled to the Cemex FEC Quarry in Miami. Thanks to great timing, we were able to be on hand for a blast. We also saw a dragline demonstrated, and eventually were given the chance to be photographed in the dragline’s bucket. The visit to the quarry also included a presentation about Cemex’s Zero4Life safety initiative and a view of the plant from an observation area.

Saturday was the general session with industry leaders. First speaker was Jennifer Joy Wilson, president and CEO of NSSGA. Wilson gave an update on what is taking place in Washington, D.C. and stated that not only do we need to unite within our industry, but also with our allies. NSSGA has instituted a “One to Five” program to boost support from both the business sector and the public for surface transportation reauthorization. If each person reaches out to five non-construction industry members and engages them in concern for the surface transportation law and support of a multi-year, well-functioning highway bill, it can lead to a powerful force that Congress can’t ignore.

Following Wilson were presentations on leadership. The first speaker was Dave Thomey, executive vice president of Maryland Materials Inc., whose presentation was entitled, “You, the Aggregates Industry, and the American Dream.” According to Thomey, we have to have an appreciation for what we are asking people to do; it is the key to effective leadership. Ken MacLean, president of Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete, Eastern North America Region, noted that what differentiates one company from another (in our industry) is the people. During “A Leader – Coach for Life,” Doug Black, CEO of Oldcastle Materials, Inc., shared his experiences in team building and the role of coaching in the business world.  ­

Other speakers were Bill Wetta, II of Dredging Supply Co. Inc., who discussed mining in Florida. All of the mining in Florida is by open-pit method and a variety of dredge types are used to mine. The final speaker for the day was Mellot Co.’s Brian Mellott, who addressed contract crushing and its benefits.

A Great Opportunity
The industry’s younger generation would be well served to partake in this annual event. It is a great way to grow in our field through networking and educational opportunities. It is also a way to become part of the “family” that Witmer discussed during the Walsh reception. For more information on how to get involved with Young Leaders, visit