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Professional recognition is not often sought or targeted, but rather is earned through passion, persistence and unselfishness. Awards of recognition given by organizations like the Concrete Foundations Association honor these values as well as creativity, commitment and perseverance. Standing before your peers, having biographical information read on your behalf, as well as descriptions of the achievements leading to the recognition, is one of the most humbling moments many will encounter. In the wake, the individual, their organization, the peers inspired by the accomplishment, and the organization bestowing the honor are moved forward in a harmonized effort to obtain the future of excellence for all.


The Concrete Foundations Association has been recognizing its members for several decades. The most coveted of recognitions and the oldest Association award is the Robert D. Sawyer Memorial Award and due to the meaningful stories of so many members, it is joined by annual recognitions for service and excellence by those who are making things happen for their markets and for the Association right now. On the evening of Friday, July 26th, during Concrete Foundations Convention 2019 in Denver, Colorado, a great evening of honor and celebration brought awareness to and elevated the commitment of these individuals among their peers. The Awards Gala was one of the finest to date, and it gave us the chance to set the standard of service and achievement even higher.


Rocky Geans is a truly passionate member of the concrete construction industry. After years of participation, leadership and mentorship in the American Society of Concrete Contractors, and following the closing of his highly successful contracting business based in Indiana, he established the Rocky Geans Construction Business School. When this school was formally introduced to members of the CFA, the board was encouraged to engage Rocky and his school as a solution to one of the most persistent requests made of the Association – that is, knowledge on how best to provide complete business education. Concrete contractors have always been challenged to find time to invest in their companies by working on business skills and gaining a detailed understanding of elevating the company through quality assurance and control. Today, #RGCBS is providing just that as a mostly exclusive resource to the Association.

Rocky has further committed to this new passion of working to better the contracting organizations of the CFA by becoming a Consulting Member, demonstrating that one of the first and best things any contractor can do is to become a member of the Association that best fits or relates to his or her business (or portion thereof). In just a two-year period, more than four dozen members of the Association have been given the opportunity to work on their businesses, many already reporting implementing broad strokes that have changed and even saved their businesses. In the spring of 2019, Rocky worked with CFA staff and Euclid Chemical, one of the CFA National Associate members, to offer #RGCBS in Cleveland, Ohio. The proceeds of this event alone raised nearly $4,000 for cancer funding through Concrete Cares. In addition to establishing the school, Rocky has begun to mentor CFA members from these events and encourages the formation of mixed groups for continued idea exchange. Through these mechanisms, he is modeling and mentoring the future of business education, which fulfills the long-time hope of the CFA board for new and less-experienced concrete contractors to identify best practices and smart habits through effective business culture transformation.



The CFA Board of Directors’ vision for this award was to seek engagement and active participation by new members of the organization. While it is easy to join an Association, it is not always as easy to actively seek influence through participation. Thus, the Kick-Starter award recognizes a member who, within the first three years of membership, demonstrates an active, digging-in mindset that produces early results and evidences the fullest value of CFA membership.


Daryl Knoerdel of Knoerdel Foundation Specialists in Georgetown, Penn. is one of the finest examples of a company jumping into membership and experimenting with as many of the offers as possible to impact the company. Knoerdel Foundation Specialists joined the CFA in October of 2016. During the first three years of membership, Darryl found himself committing to as many trips to CFA events as any company in the Association (with the exception of board members). Beginning with an interest in and commitment to becoming certified, he drove himself and one of his wall foremen from the local Mennonite community to take an exam in Philadelphia, Penn. He then committed to the first CFA-sponsored #RGCBS held in Indianapolis, Ind. This class challenged him enough to compel him to attend the next #RGCBS held in Philadelphia the next year. Darryl has continued using opportunities to strive toward greater control of his company. As a regular contributor to the CFA Hotline, he has recognized the technical strengths of the Association as a resource to help him resolve market struggles he faces. This has included such defenses as the identification of inappropriately high w/cm (and not contractor error) as the cause for quality issues, when a national builder contracted for only his labor. A true Association member, Darryl has put himself out there to really test the CFA’s strength as a trusted and valued network of peers.



This innovation award seeks to recognize the efforts many contractors undertake to identify and resolve pesky problems or deliver solutions that potentially bring a broader benefit to the industry.  Rarely seeking innovation for the purpose of financial gain, contractors who are creative and generous with their ideas can have lasting impressions.


Dan Smith of Landmark Concrete in Albert Lee, Minn. is one such contractor. Dan reached out to the CFA in the fall of 2018 with a concept to help improve the quality control of building insulated concrete sandwich wall foundations. After participating in a technical review of the form tie system he was inventing, Smith then joined the Association in October as a contractor member and attended World of Concrete 2019. 

His company is a concrete foundation contractor by market position, and they had been seeing an increased interest in thermally efficient concrete foundations. Yet, he perceived a quality control problem launching him into personally inventing a form tie capable of holding insulation boards at their edges to more effectively position insulation at the tie locations. These form ties for different forming systems were displayed in the CFA booth and brought a wealth of curiosity and conversation. Dan was able to talk with several of the CFA form manufacturers about viability. This innovation demonstrates the moving forward of ideas into the marketplace and the role of the CFA as a valuable network where peer relationships can assist new ideas becoming plausible solutions.



Associations rely greatly on the presence and contributions of organizations that manufacture, service or distribute product and technology throughout the industry. This award recognizes an organization or an individual going above and beyond to participate as a thought leader and bring increased value to the overall mission and vision of the Association, realizing that the line separating altruism and service/sales is often greatly challenging to define.


Destry Kenning of Nox-Crete Products Group in Omaha, Neb. was recognized this year as the CFA’s Associate of the Year. Kenning has been a participant within the CFA since 2016, not long after joining his company. Through participation in multiple conventions and with participation in the CFA’s Hotline, he found interest in providing thought leadership in the last year, contributing a four-part technical article series to help contractors learn about the importance and option of cleaning forms and choosing release agents. This technical article series is the first multi-part series written outside of CFA staff. Kenning is now chair of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) 332-B/C sub-committee for Materials/Production and is leading the way for improved code language and use of the modern standards for cast-in-place residential concrete.



A storied award for the organization, this recognition looks to identify a contracting organization or individual within membership that generates significant thought leadership and impact among his/her peers, though not specifically placed in a position of such leadership (such as participation at the board or executive committee level). Contractors of the year lead by example and participate openly and freely with the goal of achieving excellence in the Association, as well as impacting their business and market.


Russ Talpey of Talpey Construction in Westbrook, Conn. received the Contractor of the Year award from the executive director, James Baty, during the Awards Gala. Russ joined the CFA following World of Concrete 2015, and since that move, he has considered involvement in the CFA one of his highest goals. He contributes annually to the Projects of the Year, where he has been recognized multiple times: The Large and the Small of It (Concrete Facts, Winter 2019) and 2017 PROJECTS OF THE YEAR | SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCE 2000-5000 SF (Concrete Facts, Summer 2017). He has promoted CFA membership to other companies he has contact with, and he contributes regularly to the CFA Hotline, both in inquiry and response. Talpey Construction represents the owner and operator side of the CFA contractor membership. The company is both concrete contractor and homebuilder. They have invested heavily in technology and equipment to facilitate the efficiency and quality of their projects. Talpey now joins the CFA board (see “New Leaders Start Their Service” in this issue of Concrete Facts), though this was not a consideration at the time of his award.



A rarely offered award, bestowed directly by the Board of Directors, this recognition was established to honor the career of an individual who is held in highest esteem by the Association. Lifetime achievement has its roots in the specific impact to the Concrete Foundations Association, but it also recognizes efforts made on behalf of the Association in all aspects of the industry, or the overall influence of an individual who helps shape the future.


James Edward (Ed) Sauter, whose name is practically synonymous with the CFA, served as the CFA Executive Director from 1994 until 2015. During this time the Association saw great growth, leading the development of a residential concrete code through ACI and establishing a certification program for contractors, which is now co-hosted by ACI (individual) and CFA (company). While his direction was benefitting his firm (initially Sauter Steveley Associates, then Sauter Baty Associates), Ed’s direction also grew every aspect of the Association, including a magazine that serves as the voice for the industry and the strong annual networking and industry celebration, the Concrete Foundations Convention. Ed’s service is undeniably the reason the CFA endured through the hardships of the Recession in 2008-10 and remains one of the strongest concrete industry associations. From his development choices to staff decisions, he has taken the right steps along the way. This recognition honors the nearly thirty years Ed gave to the Association and the industry – time he dedicated not because he desired to leave a legacy, but because it was his passion.



Named after Bob Sawyer, the CFA’s first executive director, this award is presented to a nominee whose contributions to the industry merit the highest recognition. Bob passed away in 2004 after a brief illness, having committed the later years of his professional career to pressing the industry forward and setting up a network for residential concrete contractors to support and be supported, educate and be educated, advocate and be advocated for. The award recognizes individuals who commit time and countless resources to serve the industry, as Bob Sawyer did. Bob’s inspiration and leadership brought together a group of minds that are truly focused on improving the technology and practices in an industry that we love so much. He will not be forgotten.


Arie Van Wyk of Van Wyks Inc. in Waldo, Wisc. received the award recognition this year, joining the list of some of the most noteworthy and passionate CFA leaders. Nominated by the Sawyer Award Nominations Committee, fellow award recipient and member of the committee, Scott Smith, stated, “My reasoning for [Arie’s] nomination is because of his long and dedicated board and meeting service, along with his fearless approach to new techniques, equipment and technology. He was always taking big risks that made it easier for others to put their toes into the water after he was all in. Tall walls, big walls, big forms, welding shop for form repairs, laser screeding concrete – he was always putting his money on the table to advance his business and in doing so led the way for others to experiment as well.”

Van Wyk received the final award of the night from the executive director, Jim Baty, and addressed the Awards Gala and collection of his peers. His words were short and profound about the value of an organization that allows someone like him, or anyone for that matter, with passion, vision and fortitude to try new ideas and pursue a love for construction. He expressed feeling humbled to be joining the great group of industry leaders recognized in front of him and an appreciation for the support over all these years. Now in retirement, Arie is enjoying watching his son drive the business.



The CFA seeks nominations for individuals that are making a difference in the everyday life of the Association and the industry. These awards, while set up for annual recognition, are reserved to protect the integrity of the honor to which they are intended and bestowed on those most worthy of recognition. If you have someone in mind for an award, send the information to the executive director, James Baty, at By observing and respecting the leaders among us, we are all inspired to do better and be better for each other.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us