My college always seemed to schedule an opponent from a division above us. I don't want to suggest that I gave up before the kickoff, but as an engineering student, I knew more about statistics than my fellow teammates who studied general or physical education. They were blessedly oblivious to the concept of series.

Facing such a high-powered opposing school, my coach once ended his inspirational pregame speech by saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Kevin Bell, a fellow engineering student, stunned the room by asking, “When do we leave? And where do we meet?”

Bell's response to dealing with adversity rings true now as our industry faces the great economic unknowns that 2009 brings. How can we successfully compete with so many unknowns?

Will the banks free up money? Will the federal infrastructure spending plans help our industry segment? Will the education market start to slow? Will our workers be there when we call them back?

I can't offer any great insights on these important questions. But I can offer answers to Kevin's questions of getting on.

“When do we leave?”

We don't.

For most of us, economic slowdowns are nothing new. We know that masonry construction is not only a business. It's a lifetime commitment of learning, experiences, and capital investments.

But in a small sense of the term, many of you have left. Recent industry surveys suggest that the percentage of traditional masonry in your business is smaller today than it was ten years ago. Your work is constrained by mortared joints. More mason contractors are involved in paving, stone setting, adhered stone veneers, and other forms of structural construction, including ICFs and AAC.

By getting involved with these business expansions, many mason contractors have retained skilled craft persons, increased billing volumes, and found ways to fully utilize capital equipment. They also have incorporated new methods that increased productivity.