This category covers establishments engaged in manufacturing concrete building block and brick from a combination of cement and aggregate. Contractors engaged in concrete construction work are classified in the construction segment (see Vol. 2, Chapter 3: Construction Industries) while establishments primarily engaged in mixing and delivering ready-mixed concrete are classified in SIC 3273: Ready-Mixed Concrete.
327331 (Concrete Block and Brick Manufacturing)
In 2000, the concrete block and brick industry had approximately 22,365 employees, of which 14,023 were in production. Total payroll expenditures that year were $768 million, and the cost of materials was $1.9 billion. The more than 900 establishments operating within this industry shipped products with a total value of $3.2 billion in 2001.
Although the industry had slow and fluctuating growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, the strength of the public works segment boosted its performance in the late 1990s. The value of concrete block and brick shipments climbed steadily between 1997 and 1999, from $2.39 billion to $3.28 billion. Weaker shipment values in 2000 and 2001 were the result of reduced public works spending, an outcome of sluggish economic conditions in the United States. Dominant states in the industry include Pennsylvania, California, Texas, and Michigan.
The first solid concrete block patent was granted in 1832, and the first hollow concrete building block patent was in 1850, both in England. Harmon S. Palmer patented a concrete block machine in 1900 in the United States. Since then, the concrete block has continued to increase in popularity because of the product's durability and economy. The industry also advanced in terms of product quality, production and distribution methods, and installation procedures. Concrete's fire safety compared to that of wood has been a major factor in its appeal. In the early days, small concrete manufacturing facilities sprouted up rapidly in most urban areas in the United States because they needed to be located near their users' destinations. A block machine could be bought for $100 in 1906, and the business opportunities appealed to entrepreneurial instincts.
The National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) was an affiliate of the Portland Cement Association in the 1930s. The NCMA became independent in 1942 and has since supported concrete block producers, machinery manufacturers, and related interests. Since its founding, the NCMA has conducted research and testing on concrete block products and structures.
Establishments in this industry tend to be relatively small, local operations, since it is generally not economical to ship concrete block and brick more than 50 miles because of its weight. For this reason, companies in the industry have grown by organizing or purchasing added concrete block and brick production operations in new areas.
Another factor in the structure of the industry is that most of the companies that produce concrete block and brick also produce other concrete-related products, including ready-mixed concrete, concrete pipe, or various precast or prestressed products, such as building structural parts, which can be fabricated centrally and shipped to locations where they will be installed.
Most concrete block and brick establishments have one or more competitors in their areas of operation and compete in matters such as price, location, service, quality, and reliability. They also compete with other building products such as lumber, clay brick, and steel.
None of the larger companies in the concrete industries has concrete block and brick as the primary product line. These larger companies produce concrete block as one part of a group of products in the concrete and other construction-related fields. Leading corporations within this industry segment ranked by revenue as of 2003 included Glen-Gery Corporation of Reading, Pennsylvania, with $150 million in sales; Featherlite Building Products Corporation of Austin, Texas, with $50 million in sales; and Clayton Block Company of Lakewood, New Jersey, with $25 million in sales.
Research continued into the early 2000s to improve the characteristics of concrete block as well as to make possible different features to fit varying users' needs and desires. New exterior appearance attributes have been developed such as ribbed, fluted, and split-faced surfaces, which have met the needs of innovative architects for the walls of buildings. Blocks of lighter weight have been created by mixing different raw material aggregates with the cement and water. New uses have been found for concrete blocks, such as in drainage systems. Research has also been conducted on ways in which concrete block might be constructed automatically into building walls.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industry Groups and Industries: 2000." February 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/m00as-1.pdf .
——. "Value of Shipment for Product Classes: 2001 and Earlier Years." December 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/m01as-2.pdf .