Rick Yelton

Each Thursday night, the city of San Luis Obispo, California hosts a Farmers Market. The festival extends for about four blocks in this quaint town of about 35,000. Booths offering all sorts of goods, food, and advice line each side of the avenue.

The city is home to California Polytechnic State University. Recently, I was there to help out at the National Concrete Canoe Competition, sponsored by World of Concrete. It's a tough life, but someone has to do it.

As I was walking down the street, I came across a stand that was collecting money for the Chilean Earthquake Relief effort. The four or five college-age souls were trying to remind passers-by of the need to help those displaced by the devastating earthquake earlier this year.

It was a noble effort, but I found something ironic about the booth's location. On the building just behind the booth was affixed a sign that read, “Earthquake Warning, This is an unreinforced masonry building. You may not be safe inside or near unreinforced masonry buildings during an earthquake.”

I opted not to bring the posting to the booth host's attention. It was a great evening and I'm not sure my comments about how mason contractors can now cost effectively upgrade unreinforced structures would raise much interest. Nor did I think urging them to turn their efforts to helping local residents become aware of new advances in strengthening materials would sound like much fun. Selling llama vests and blankets from Chilean craftsmen seemed like their idea of commitment to earthquake safety.

The masonry industry is often the forgotten strength of humanity. The public wants safety, but somehow forgets that unless a voice is heard, stronger building safety standards won't be adopted by public officials.

I'm encouraged that many of our industry's leaders have noticed this serious problem as well. Vision 2020, a marketing effort adopted by many of our leading organizations, is focused on reeducating public officials on how masonry is not only a sustainable building material, but also a safe one.

Vision 2020 has been under development for some time. Both MCAA and NCMA members have been working closely on developing one single message, promoting masonry rather than individual agendas. It's a move that has been too long in coming.

Another move that is perhaps overdue is the appointment of this magazine's new editorial staff. Tom Bagsarian and Shelby Mitchell's new roles will enable me to refocus on Hanley Wood's commitment to the masonry industry. I'm hoping to find new ways, in my new job as editorial and events manager, to grow our industry through greater industry involvement. Please keep those emails and questions coming.

Click here for more from Rick Yelton's blog.