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Wide-ranging factors account for Alberta’s concrete challenges

Warren Frey
Wide-ranging factors account for Alberta’s concrete challenges

A multiplicity of factors are affecting Alberta’s concrete industry.

While Canada and the global economy are battered by inflation, supply chain issues and an ongoing pandemic, the nation’s concrete industry is struggling with unprecedented shortages.

Alberta isn’t immune from the ongoing crisis and Concrete Alberta executive director Dan Hanson said it’s impossible to point to a single cause for the industry’s woes in the province.

“This is not an issue that is targeted to one specific area of the country or one specific industry. The issues being experienced are across borders and industries. I think one of the bigger pieces is that this is a complex issue,” Hanson said.

“There are so many variables, so many moving pieces. It’s really difficult to pinpoint one or two areas and say, ‘well, if we adjust this or fix this then problems will go away and issues will be resolved.’ It’s not that simple of a conversation,” he added.

Hanson said Alberta’s concrete and construction industries are being buffeted on multiple fronts by adverse factors affecting productivity.

“The ready-mix industry in Alberta has definitely been experiencing challenges when it comes to the supply of materials to produce concrete,” he said. “Demand for construction materials remains high here in Alberta, as it is across Canada, as well as south of the border, and you accompany that demand with global supply chain issues, equipment and labour shortages and that’s a significant recipe for issues within industry.”

Additional factors include increased operating costs including the cost of fuel, equipment, electricity and natural gas, he said.

“Costs are going up across the board and it’s something we’re experiencing in our day to day lives, not just an issue being faced by just one industry or just the concrete industry,” Hanson added.

While large-scale construction has suffered from concrete shortages Hanson said residential projects have also been impacted.

“Housing starts are at a high point we haven’t seen since 2015 and obviously there’s been an impact there on the concrete side, but there’s other aspects to a housing build that are impacted too. Look at large-scale projects and the impacts are there because the quantities are greater,” he said.

Hanson said Concrete Alberta membership is talking to him and amongst themselves about all the aspects of the concrete shortage affecting their business.

“It’s across the board. These discussions are happening where there’s all these things adding up like supply chain issues, costs and labour shortages and it’s sort of a storm that’s accumulating into a worst -case scenario,” he said.

Much like the rest of Canada, Alberta is also experiencing severe skilled labour shortages and the concrete industry is feeling the pinch.

“Specifically with respect to drivers, recruitment and retention I think it’s fair to say are commonly identified as the number one challenge facing the building materials industry today. There isn’t one piece to that puzzle that means the issue is solved,” he said.

Despite adverse conditions, Hanson is somewhat optimistic in the long-term for Alberta’s prospects.

“Our economy is moving in a positive direction, the employment outlook remains strong and we expect to see continued labour shortages throughout our industry at home and across the country,” he said, adding Concrete Alberta continues to consult with other stakeholders as shortages continue.

“It’s an issue we engage with our industry partners on regularly as well as government officials and others and as an association we do what we can to ensure that we’re collaborating with our industry partners to support our members.”

 

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