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Generational Shift

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I’m at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the 2019 Tilt-Up Convention and Expo, sitting around a table with 18 founding individuals of Tilt-Up Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (TILT), the association’s new young professionals’ collaborative. We’re discussing next steps for the group, including a more focused consideration of initiatives, the group’s structure and leadership, funding, our plan for growth, and evaluation of success metrics. I imagine this is not too dissimilar from how it all started some three decades ago. I can’t escape the feeling that we are starting the Tilt-Up Concrete Association all over again.

The process reminds me of a story shared among students and faculty during my time at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Once upon a time, it was the most iconic image of Washington University: two straight rows of high thin pin oaks lining the path straight up the front of campus, where the twin towers of Brookings rose up above the rest of the landscape.” 

– Jon Lewis, Associate Editor of Student Life, the independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis

Planted in and around 1936, these trees shaded my walk to class each day. The story was that the trees were nearing the end of their lives and that their replacements were being grown on a farm outside of town. The new trees were being groomed for this specific spot. When called upon, they were to be mature enough to stand tall and sufficiently fill the void the old trees would leave, yet they needed to be young enough to withstand the stress of transplantation.

Naturally, over 80 plus years, things changed. Plans for the biggest construction project in the history of Washington University were announced in 2014, which required completely leveling the historic promenade, trees and all. This project forced the University’s hand in addressing the aging trees that, according to Kent Theiling, who grew up in St. Louis and has spent the past nine years as the University’s manager of grounds and the chief horticulturist, were dying and needed to be removed.

Of course, the new plan for this end of campus re-envisions the old allée of trees and the iconic axis that sets up a monumental arrival to campus. The new design is familiar and natural, yet it is informed by history, affected by present-day context and challenged by new demands. It’s at once the same and totally different.

“It’ll be an allée of trees, diverse species, five different oak species,” said Theiling. “Like the pin oaks were when they started, but you’re going to get varying heights and not straight line allée. But, you know, there will still be a clear view down the lawn area from Skinker and Lindell to Brookings.”

While the TCA is a mature professional organization, it is young enough that some of the founding leaders remain active today. I am fortunate to have a close relationship with a few of them. I know many of their stories, understand some of the struggles they faced bringing this organization to life, and I arrived just in time to see them complete the transition to an entirely new generation of leaders. Even in my short time with the organization thus far, there have been growing pains. I am comfortable with that pain and look forward to managing it alongside some of the greatest leaders our industry has to offer. I embrace and even cherish the idea that I may serve as a translator of sorts, or moderator, between as many as three generations of leadership.

Born in 1981, I am a member of the microgeneration known as Xennials (1977-1985). Business Insider points out that the term was coined by Sarah Stankorb in a 2014 Good magazine article to describe a group that straddles Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980, and Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, according to the Pew Research Center.

In her article, Stankorb writes, “Those of us born in the fuzzy borderland between Gen X and Millennial are old enough to have logged in to our first email addresses in college. We use social media but can remember living life without it. The internet was not a part of our childhoods, but computers existed and there was something special about the opportunity to use one… We adapted easily to technological advances but weren’t as beholden to them as our juniors. We were by no means immune to the Recession, but many of us were able to duck its heftiest blows… Our micro-generation attended much of secondary school in a pre-Columbine era. September 11 was formative for us.”

Perhaps it is because I straddle this generational shift that I am most excited and feel so fortunate to now be involved with this cultivation of the next generation of tilt-up industry leaders. I see the extraordinary opportunities that come with their energy, optimism, and knowledge, all the while feeling a deep sense of responsibility to honor and share the great accomplishments of those that came before them. It is with awareness of all efforts, acknowledgement of all contributions, and openness to all ideas that we will together serve the greater good.

“Because of the old

I will defend the new until I die

and the old I will defend

throughout my life because of the new.

The old that was new

and is as new as the newest.”

—Augusto de Campos, Verso, reverso, controverso


Mitch Bloomquist

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.