NCMA Forums Help Members Connect During The Pandemic

Discussion forums to help members in the industry connect during these difficult times

Six weeks ago, no one would have imagined that normal ways of interaction and conducting business would have been disrupted so quickly. Visiting customers, attending meetings and conferences, and even family dinners are impossible in many areas right now. The coronavirus has transformed everyday life. With nearly everyone across the country under “stay-at-home” orders, the need for new ways to connect, both professionally and socially, has become even more important.

To help members continue to interact, NCMA has been hosting a series of forums to enable information sharing and networking. Below are some of the takeaways from such forums hosted over the past several weeks, along with some information on upcoming forums.

Producer Members

Producer members from both the US and Canada have been participating in small group forum calls since late March. These calls include 8-10 participants from different geographic areas of North America. Members share their best practices under the restrictions placed within their states and/or province. The focus of the calls changes weekly based on phases of the pandemic. Early calls set best practices for communicating with employees, social distancing, furloughing employees, essential status and operating without open showrooms. Calls shifted to applying for programs available under the CARES act, construction shut down orders and delivery best practices. Most recently calls have included whether any companies, even those who have been approved, have actually received any of the funds. A key takeaway from the most recent call comes from Rich O’Connor from Taylor Concrete Products in New York: “If you intend to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program or a disaster loan, be sure to talk with your accountant and/or bank(er) to be sure you understand all the options and implications.”

NCMA continues to host these calls on a regular basis. If you would like to participate in future calls with other producer members contact Clare Ramminger.

Young Professionals

Two weeks ago, NCMA’s Young Professionals Group hosted a forum call where 32 young professionals were in attendance. There was a wide variety of discussion on how the coronavirus is affecting both business and personal life. They discussed how the impacts are very different geographically with some areas (such as Texas) where effects have been minimal, and other areas (like Michigan) where construction is shut down. “I was surprised at how quickly it became difficult to find basics like hand sanitizer and masks for cleaning mixers,” said Starling Johnson Kaklamanos from Johnson Concrete Products in North Carolina. “In the early weeks of the pandemic it took a tremendous amount of effort to procure the supplies needed to keep our team safe.”

Several discussed that outdoor hardscape projects are still very busy, and one company reported that they have developed DIY kits to sell at home improvement stores due to demand. On a personal front, many YPs are working from home with small children, which can make getting needed work done more difficult. The pandemic has certainly generated a new appreciation for those who stay at home and take care of children full time! For those without children, home improvement projects have helped beat the quarantine boredom.

Another YP call will be scheduled in the next couple weeks. If you would like to participate, contact Carrington Blencowe.

Concrete Women Connect

Last week, 22 women from the concrete masonry, hardscape, and manufactured stone industry came together for a forum. They discussed adapting to a “new normal” of working primarily from home. It is also anticipated that there will be more video conferences (using tools such as Zoom) rather than standard conference calls, especially at this time. “Zoom has become an effective platform for remote work conferences,” said Terri Grulke with Besser Company. “These platforms are replacing the traditional conference call for meetings and I see this being how we move forward with committee calls.”

Social distancing at the workplace was also discussed, and some reported that the requirements for social distancing have made some production plant operations more difficult, slowing production to some extent. From a personal perspective, many have turned to online activities to pass time – including free education courses and genealogy research.

Additional email communications and forums for Concrete Women Connect are in the works. To be added for future communications, contact Carrington Blencowe.

 Upcoming Opportunities

In addition to continuing the forums above, NCMA is working on additional opportunities for engagement.

Safety Personnel

During the pandemic, and especially as stay-at-home orders are lifted and personnel return to work, ensuring a safe workplace is critical. NCMA will be hosting a forum soon for safety managers and personnel at member companies to discuss best practices and ways to keep employees safe and healthy. Interested in participating? Contact Carrington Blencowe.

Architectural Reps

Even in these uncertain times, it is important to continue to promote the benefits of member products to architects and designers. Many have used this time to find new ways to connect with their customers virtually. Join this forum and discuss strategies that have worked, come up with new ideas, and let NCMA know how to best support these efforts. Contact Clare Ramminger to participate.

Manufactured Stone Producers

NCMA’s Manufactured Stone Veneer Committee will be hosting a forum for MSV producers to speak with each other about impacts and adapting to the pandemic. To participate, contact Clare Ramminger.


Published April 22, 2020
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