Changing Adversaries into Allies: Chris Hopkins in Aggregates Manager

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(The permitting process can be contentious, but long term community outreach and involvement can build better relationships, writes Christopher Hopkins, the senior vice president of mining and aggregates for The Saint Consulting Group, in the June issue of Aggregates Manager)

By Christopher Hopkins, The Saint Consulting Group

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Getting a quarry expansion or a new greenfield site approved through the local permitting process can be a grind. It will likely be contentious, volatile, and at the end of the day, regardless of the outcome, there will be some hard feelings on both sides of the argument. After all that, when I tell clients, “it wasn’t personal, it was only business,” they sometimes look at me as if I have insulted their mother.

Well, it isn’t personal; it is only business for the most part on both sides. You have to remember that, for the vast majority of Americans, their home is the largest investment they will ever have, and any perceived threat to that asset will spur them to action. The average person has no idea what an aggregate quarry is, how it operates, or what the product is used for. And they definitely have very little reason to trust the large company “ramming it into their backyards.”

Creating community goodwill garners long-term results, but requires a long-term perspective. Short-term efforts are easily seen for what they are.
The application process on the local, state, and federal levels has become a political process. Decisionmakers want to get re-elected or re-appointed to their positions, so political dynamics make it far more likely that a board of county commissioners will vote to please a roomful of angry voters demanding that a project be denied, rather than defy their constituents — even if those citizens have been riled by misinformation spread in a misguided flyer.

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Christopher Hopkins is senior vice president for mining and aggregates for The Saint Consulting Group, email hopkins@tscg.biz

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