This month, the Corner Office spotlight shines on Margaret Cervarich, Vice President for Communication and Public Affairs of the 1,100-member National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), which represents the interests of asphalt pavement material producers and paving contractors on the national level with Congress, government agencies, and other national trade and business organizations.
By Association Adviser staff
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ASSOCIATION ADVISER: Margaret, tell us a little about your background.
MARGARET CERVARICH: I’ve always had a background in communications, marketing and public affairs. Before coming to NAPA in 1996, I held several communications and public affairs positions including running my own firm, which had a number of clients in the transportation industry.
AA: Can you tell us more about NAPA and its members?
MC: Our 1,100 company members fall into two large groups: Producers, who make the hot or warm mix pavement material, and Associate Members, including refiners, equipment manufacturers, software vendors and more.
AA: What is asphalt pavement exactly and can the terms “asphalt” and “pavement” be used interchangeably?
MC: Asphalt pavement is a combination of 95 percent aggregate—stone, sand, or gravel—bound together by 5 percent asphalt cement, a product of crude oil. Asphalt cement, the glue that holds the pavement together, is heated and mixed with the aggregate at a mixing facility. Trucks drop the material into hoppers at the front of paving machines. The asphalt is placed, then compacted, using a heavy roller. You generally can drive on the pavement as soon as it has been compacted and cooled.
AA: How large an industry does NAPA represent?
MC: The United States has more than 2 million miles of paved roads and highways, and 94 percent of those are surfaced with asphalt. The nation has around 4,000 asphalt plants, at least one in every congressional district. Each year, these plants around 400 million tons of asphalt pavement material and the industry employs more than 300,000.
AA: For many years, your industry has been a pioneer in recycling efforts. Can you tell us more?
MC: Asphalt is America’s most recycled material. The asphalt cement in the reclaimed pavement is reactivated to become an integral part of the new pavement. The recycled asphalt cement replaces part of the new asphalt cement that’s required for the pavement, thus reducing costs for road agencies and conserving precious natural resources.
AA: How would you describe a typical NAPA member?
MC: There is no such thing as a typical NAPA member. Some members companies have one plant, some have up to 600 plants. Some have paving operations, some just produce pavement material. Paving supervisors can range in age from 20 to 60. We also reach many university researchers who can range from young Ph.D. candidates to established full professors.
AA: That diversity must make it very challenging for those who create content for your member publications and events.
MC: We have great depth since we use a combination of in-house staff, paid freelancers, volunteers, engineers, departments of transportation (DOTs) and the National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University in Alabama. Our bi-monthly magazine Asphalt Pavement is different from a lot of other association magazines. It’s a technical journal. It’s all about education. We focus on the latest technologies, best practices and profiles of successful projects. It’s really designed as an educational vehicle for both our members and our members’ customers.
MC: Actually the magazine goes to a total of 9,500 professionals, including both our members and our members’ customers working in public works, real estate and DOTs. Anyone can request a subscription, but they must qualify by being involved in the industry.
AA: We understand there’s been a major shift in your industry from hot mix to warm mix. Can you tell those of us why it’s so important?
MC: The shift from hot mix (280 to 320 degrees Fahrenheit) to warm mix (212-280 degrees) was intended to reduce fumes at the source of production and to reduce workers’ exposure to those fumes. And that’s what we did, but we got some unexpected benefits as well:
- You can store warm mix longer than hot mix.
- You can truck warm mix further than hot mix.
- You can work in colder weather with warm mix than you can with hot mix.
- It’s a compaction aid for road crews.
AA: As a longtime Naylor client, is it safe to assume your communication channels are fairly well integrated?
MC: Yes. Let’s say breaking news or an important piece of legislation hits. We’ll send out an Electronic Legislative Report right away—in fact, I’m finishing one right now on the Highway Bill that was introduced yesterday. We’ll also reference the bill on our website and it will be included with some analysis in the next issue of Action News, our members’ only bi-weekly e-newsletter.
AA: Aside from the economy, what challenges does NAPA face?
MC: Communicating with DOTs has become tougher. Travel budgets have really been slashed at many DOTs, and it’s harder for potential attendees to get approval to come to our technical conferences. In response, we’ve tried making the conferences available as webinars. We’ve had success with 45- to 90-minute individual sessions when you have a single, technical topic.
AA: Speaking of social media, can you tell us more about your efforts to recruit and retain younger members?
MC: We have a Young Leaders Conference every fall of each year and the Young Leaders Committee develops workshops, tours and other programs in conjunction with NAPA’s Annual Meeting. The Committee also works with the National Asphalt Pavement Association Research and Education Foundation at Auburn University to administer the Young Leaders Scholarship and to sponsor the Professor Training Program. Our foundation grants 150 scholarships a year to college kids focusing on asphalt technology and we have a professor training program for 40 professors.
AA: How else has the economy affected NAPA membership?
MC: We’ve been doing a very good job of retaining our members. Retention has been about 99 percent throughout the recession.
AA: Impressive. So what would you say are the strongest benefits of membership in NAPA today, 2012?
MC: Three things. The first is legislative. We’re lobbying very hard for you to get a robust Highway Bill through. The second is regulatory. We’re interacting continuously on your behalf with all the regulatory agencies that affect your business. Third is engineering. We’re passionate about keeping members up to date on innovation, technical support, research and implementation.
AA: What would you say is the single biggest misconception that people may have about the asphalt pavement industry?
MC: People are surprised that an industry involved with paving roads is so environmentally conscious. We’re possibly the best environmental stewards of any major industry and definitely the biggest recycler. We’ve cut emissions from our plants by at least 97 percent and have very strong partnerships with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
AA: So what’s keeping you up at night?
MC: Always too much to do and not enough time to do it.
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