The family behind longtime block producer RCP Block & Brick of San Diego has long made “giving back” a part of their business philosophy. It began with company founder Marvin H. Finch (right) who spent much of his professional career in leadership roles for state, regional and national masonry associations. It continues with sons Mike and Tom, both strong supporters of the drive to bring a national checkoff to the industry.
Mike Finch (left) is one of three Region 5 captains reaching out to producers across California. “Dad did not have a domineering leadership style,” Mike recalls. “He believed that collaboration with good thinkers working towards a common cause would produce the best outcome. Dad's belief in people working together to achieve a common objective seems to be exactly what we are striving for with our CMU Checkoff program.”
Tom Finch (right), vice-president of sales and marketing for RCP, says both he and his brother literally grew up in the company their father founded in 1947. “Since the concept of a concrete masonry industry checkoff program began in 2008 we’ve both been strong proponents,” says Finch.
“Concrete masonry units are the best building material available in our markets. Our industry producers and vendor partners are passionately invested in making quality products and bringing exciting new products to designers."
RCP (which stands for “Revolutionized Concrete Products”) operates one primary manufacturing plant in the Otay Mesa neighborhood in south San Diego. The facility produces concrete block, interlocking pavers, segmental retaining wall units and other dry-cast hardscape products. The company’s six retail operations distribute its concrete products along with natural and manufactured stone, clay brick, bagged goods, bulk aggregates, and decorative ground cover.
Tom Finch says on the block side, one area of recent success in his region of California centers on the self-storage industry, which often utilize concrete masonry for its durability, fire-resistance and design flexibility. “We have seen a tremendous explosion of self-storage buildings being constructed,” notes Finch. “The old adage ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ might be applicable to more than just weekend yard sales.”
Finch attributes the uptick in the construction of new storage facilities to the high cost of homes across California. “I think it’s partly due to people unable to part with possessions, but more likely having to do with the rising housing prices and the desire for people to move into smaller downtown high-rise buildings,” he says.
RCP also consistently supplies material to military projects throughout San Diego and provides block for the educational market. “Schools are still a big part of our business however that would be an area of concern since they are in many cases only using masonry on the gymnasiums, performing arts and theatre buildings,” says Finch. “The classrooms and administration buildings are wood and steel stud.”
Other market segments in the state have not fared as well. Finch finds large retail, like much of the country, is somewhat in decline. “With large retail chains closing stores and new retailers taking over existing buildings, there’s definitely been a decrease,” he says. “Small retail centers, fast food chains, banks and such are usually wood.”
Finch says the residential market in California is often dominated by wood frame construction, especially in masterplan communities. High-rise multi-family construction typically consists of concrete podium decks on the first and second floors with wood or steel construction the rest of the way up. “You will find masonry in the below grade parking garages, although poured-in-place concrete is used more frequently,” he says.
Even detention centers, once dominated by interior and exterior masonry construction, is losing ground. “I believe we have lost a great deal of that work to tilt-up concrete exterior walls and prefabricated interior holding cells,” says Finch.
Tom Finch is rightly concerned about California’s decline in CMU use and the national drop in the number and type of projects utilizing our products. In his view, the checkoff programs of competing building materials are partially to blame for the shift.
“With large marketing budgets and the funding to influence building codes, our competitors are convincing decision makers that their products are a cheaper and faster method of construction,” he says. “Contrary to our competitions' message, masonry construction is also competitively priced and honestly the best value available.”
One aspect of the proposed CMU Checkoff program is the expected development of comprehensive educational and promotional campaigns that remind building owners and designers of masonry’s exceptional attributes.
“Masonry is the safest, most resilient, most attractive building material and requires virtually zero maintenance,” says Finch. “With the concrete masonry checkoff program in place we will once again have a strong presence in the building industry."
You can get involved in the current CMU Checkoff effort by submitting a letter of support, reaching out to the masonry contractors in your area, or by helping your regional captains gather contact information for all the producers in your state.