The Ontario Hot Mix Producers Association (OHMPA) began in the midst of an oil crisis in the mid-1970s.
"There was an oil embargo from the Middle East and the supply of the crude was just not coming over to North America allowing the asphalt industry to purchase the supply that they required to do the jobs that they had committed to," explains Doug Duke, the association’s executive director, as it prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary on Dec. 9.
"Tenders were put out, jobs were carrying over from one year to the next and over the course of those winter months the cost of the AC (asphalt cement) was going up exponentially. So you had contractors who were now forced to pay considerably more for the raw material, but deliver the road at the original tender value."
These contractors were "operating losing money" so several people in the industry decided to get together to discuss ways to address this issue, Duke states.
"It was absolutely this person, called this person, called this person, and before you know it you had eight or 10 people sitting in a room discussing what needed to be done to ensure the future viability of the industry," he says.
"That’s entirely what drove the creation of this association. It was the catalyst to some policies that were implemented with the MTO (Ministry of Transportation)."
OHMPA officially formed in 1974 and has served as a voice for hot mix asphalt producers on all subjects affecting the industry. The association’s 40th anniversary will be acknowledged at its 2014 Fall Asphalt Seminar with a video presentation. An anniversary reception has also been held.
"Forty years…you’re entering middle age. You’re coming into your mature years. I think it’s perfect for the association. It’s grown so much," he says.
"We don’t get to do this for another 10 years and 50 certainly is a very significant number. What’s nice about 40, we’re able to celebrate with some of the people who were involved when it was started. You might not be able to say the same thing at 50. It’s nice to be able to celebrate an organization’s anniversary knowing that some of your original stakeholders are involved and available to take part in that celebration."
OHMPA currently has about 135 members, says Duke, and is comprised of all major asphalt producers and asphalt cement suppliers across Ontario.
"It’s a massive industry from an economic perspective, but I mean it’s a small industry," he says on the whole.
"It’s a fairly small and cohesive group, but strength in numbers certainly, we represent 95 per cent of the industry in Ontario."
According to OHMPA, the asphalt industry supports the provincial government’s $37-billion construction industry, with asphalt producers and contractors employing about 30,000 workers during peak construction season, which is March through October.
Since its formation, OHMPA has tried to be the industry’s voice, adds Duke, with many companies banding together to address key issues.
"Everyone relies on everyone else in some way, shape or form. You’re highly competitive but you’re also highly co-operative," he explains.
"What you’re needing from someone today is what they’re needing from you tomorrow. This is the nature of the business."