The Concrete Shortage That Wasn’t

The Concrete Shortage That Wasn’t

Last year's tight material supply has subsided and a shortage of labor is a bigger concern.

Last year the media was replete with reports of a concrete shortage, driven by a low supply of cement, one of its key ingredients. The timing was terrible, with residential high-rises under construction all over town, along with the Xcel Energy and Wells Fargo corporate campuses plus the Vikings stadium. And every time construction halts for a day or two, whispers of a shortage begin again.

The construction industry isn’t buying it.

Demand is surging, but “there is no cement or concrete shortage,” says Randy McCullum, sales manager at Aggregate Industries, a concrete and aggregate provider based in Eagan. In fact, he says, the reality is far from it, noting a 10 percent increase in sales over last year.

Some of the rumors are likely remnants of 2014. Cameron Snyder, a spokesman for Mortenson Construction, says spring flooding, barge traffic limits on the Mississippi River and a plant fire in another state limited regional production briefly in 2014, just as the economy began to show real signs of growth.

“Combined with other states in the region, growing construction activity overall and limited supplies, it was a tough one for sure,” Snyder says.

The biggest obstacle going forward might not be material supply, but expertise to employ it. According to McCullum: “The only struggle is finding qualified laborers.” —Andre Eggert