Recently Robert Varner with the Mississippi Ready Mix Association inquired about decorative concrete training in his state to increase awareness of the industry for local consumers as well as local contractors. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi teaching stamped concrete, stamped overlays and acid staining at the association's facility.
Although attendance was down - probably due to the great weather most contractors were taking advantage of to make money - the training was good with some nice in-place permanent displays. We were fortunate to have one of the local decorative concrete contractors, Elliot Davis, and some of his employees from Decorative Concrete Designs, Inc. in attendance to offer a helping hand. We had prescribed our mix design for the class not realizing how fast the concrete would set up (we finished stamping this 5-yd. pad exactly one hour after the concrete was placed). Thanks to Elliot and crew, it came out nicely.
While driving to and from the training site each day, we observed the region's rebuilding process as well as much of the untouched debris left behind from the storm. The true devastation and economic impact this region had experienced really sunk in, and we wondered if the state, as well as local concrete contractors, would recover from this horrific freak of nature called Katrina.
So many of us "concrete junkies" take for granted our daily routine of being able to get up each and every day doing what we love while at the end of a hard day's work, coming home to our families and comfortable homes. Conversely, think about a once-thriving market producing your livelihood that no longer existed for years after the storm, let alone driving back to a now vacant lot with the only visible structure being a concrete foundation that you once called home!
That evening we went to a local restaurant and while waiting for Robert and Elliot to join us we were enjoying a cold beverage and asked the bartender what the painted line on the wall and ceiling represented. He informed us this was the water line from the storm surge - and oh, by the way, it was 13 ft. above their finished floor!
In any event, once we were seated I started questioning
Elliot, who had provided so much help earlier that day, about his business pre- and post-Katrina. I was so intrigued with his approach toward business and his positive attitude even after such destruction, that I asked our waitress for a pen and started asking him questions while taking notes on my napkin. Here are just a few of the questions I asked.
Bob Harris: How was your business before the storm?
Elliot Davis: Before the storm, business was thriving.?Work was at an all-time high, and the company was looking to start a third crew because of the high demand.
BH: How did the storm affect your business?
ED: As an individual, it really put things in perspective of how one can never take anything for granted.?The experience also taught me how to take each day as if it were my last.
For the first month, we were busy doing debris removal.?My initial thought was that I would be out of business and that no one would want to consider decorative concrete because it is a luxury product. However, unbeknownst to me, the people must have been thinking like I was thinking because, in having another opportunity, they wanted to upgrade to the best product there was to offer.
So, everyone was calling wanting concrete floors.?Customers no longer wanted carpet in their homes.? Instead, they wanted stained concrete floors because of the low maintenance of clean up after a storm.? (Imagine how heavy that muddy carpet was.)?Moreover, after having a knee-jerk reaction and purchasing two 20-ft. dump trailers, one 318 excavator and two additional skid steers, we find ourselves back on our hands and knees scoring and staining floors everyday.