Frequently Asked Questions

Checkoffs

What is a checkoff?
A checkoff is an industry-supported program of research, promotion and education designed to have industry-wide participation and funding to advance the industry and to create preference for a product. The purpose of the concrete masonry checkoff is to:
  1. Strengthen the position of the concrete masonry industry and products domestically.
  2. Maintain, develop and expand markets and uses for concrete masonry domestically.
  3. Promote the use of concrete masonry in construction and building.
Why do we need a checkoff?
With our checkoff we can win back market share, create new demand and develop new product and design innovations. We can take control of the future of our industry, with research, promotion and workforce development. We are losing market share year after year as our competitors start working together to compete against concrete block. It’s time to take back our markets and customers.
Why a mandatory checkoff instead of a volunteer checkoff?
The reason so many different checkoff programs have been so beneficial to their industry funders is because all producers participate at an equal rate. The pool of resources goes up and there is more leveraging of resources, while reducing costly redundancies. It also creates a consistent level of funding year over year that allows for long-term, high-impact programs.
Is the checkoff designed to benefit small producers or large producers?
All producers will benefit from the concrete masonry checkoff. Programs that are funded will be held to a fundamental criteria: does this work increase awareness and/or demand for concrete masonry.
Are there any other checkoffs in the construction and building industry?
Yes, the Softwood Lumber Board was started in 2011 and they spend approximately $14 million a year promoting wood as a superior building material.
What is the role of the U.S. Department of Commerce with the CMU Checkoff?
Our checkoff has been created by producers and will be run by producers. And industry determines where the checkoff investments go. The Department of Commerce, has a limited role, including ensuring fair representation by appointing industry-nominated board members; third-party confirmation that we are in compliance with the Act & Order and approval of the final budget.

Program

What kind of programs could the checkoff fund?
The checkoff can fund programs that fall within the broad categories of research, education, and promotion. Program funds will be used to build awareness and demand for concrete masonry. That can include research and documentation of masonry system performance and overall industry promotion and education. This also includes ensuring that engineers, architects and other designers and specifiers understand why and how best to integrate concrete masonry into the most effective structures. And while the checkoff can be used to educate regulators, legislators and inspectors on concrete masonry, funds cannot be used to lobby or advocate for legislation or regulations.
Who decides what programs will be funded?
The Board of the checkoff will allocate the funding to projects that address a regional or an industry-wide challenge or opportunity. The projects can be proposed by associations or entities at the local, state, regional or national level.
How will the states and regions have a say in the programs?
The legislation calls for five Regional Advisory Committees (RACs) that will be made up of groups of states. At a minimum, 50% of the program funds will be spent at the regional level and no more than 50% of program funds spent at the national level. RACs will each have a representative on the Board, and they will recommend programs and initiatives for funding that will have the greatest impact for their region. The Board will also consider programs that have industry-wide impact and/or programs recommended by RACs. The Board will have the fiduciary responsibility of reviewing and approving the programs.

ASSESSMENT

Who pays?
All manufacturers that produce and sell concrete masonry units will pay the same assessment at the same rate. Concrete masonry units are defined as any man-made masonry unit having an actual width of three inches or greater manufactured from dry-cast concrete using a block machine.
How much is the assessment and how will it be collected?
A penny per concrete masonry unit manufactured and sold within the United Sates will be assessed once and only once. The assessment occurs at the initial point of sale from the manufacturer, regardless of where or with whom that transaction occurs. These assessments will be at the time of invoicing. The funds will be transferred on a quarterly basis to the checkoff and used to support initiatives intended to advance the industry.
What is the difference between a tax and a checkoff assessment?
A checkoff assessment is developed and adopted by the industry and is a self-assessment of the entities in that specified industry to fund programs that they choose to support their products in a competitive environment. The government does not collect nor hold at any time the checkoff funds. Collections and management of funds is the responsibility of the checkoff board, composed of industry representatives.
What’s the difference between ‘concrete masonry products’ and ‘concrete masonry units’?

The legislation authorizing the creation of the CMU Checkoff defines both of these terms as follows:

Concrete masonry products means a broader class of products, including concrete masonry units. This also includes hardscape products such as concrete pavers and segmental retaining wall units, manufactured on a block machine, using dry-cast concrete.

Concrete masonry unit means a concrete masonry product that is a man-made masonry unit having an actual width of three inches or greater and manufactured from dry-cast concrete using a block machine. The term includes concrete block and related concrete units used in masonry applications.

‘Concrete masonry units’ includes units such as standard CMU, architectural CMU, concrete masonry veneer units over three inches in width, prefaced CMU, sound wall block, screen block, fence block, etc. ‘Concrete masonry products’ also includes products such as segmental retaining wall units and paving units.

While the legislation provided a broader authority relative to concrete masonry products, the industry at this time is only pursuing with the Department of Commerce a CMU Checkoff program that is specifically related to concrete masonry units. As such, “other products” such as segmental retaining wall units and paving units would not be assessed, and manufacturers that only produce those products would not be included in the industry referendum.

In the United States, the National Concrete Masonry Association and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute determined in March of 2020 that there are approximately 328 companies that produce ‘concrete masonry products.’ Of those:

  • 30% produce CMU (but not other concrete masonry products)
  • 54% produce CMU along with other concrete masonry products (such as SRW units and paving units).
  • 16% produce other concrete masonry products (not CMU).

The figure below shows the industry breakdown graphically. As it relates to the CMU Checkoff program, the estimated 276 manufacturing companies represented by the green regions would be entitled to vote in the referendum, and be required to submit assessments on the CMU they sell.

Concrete Masonry Product Manufacturers in the United States

Could the penny per block assessment increase?
There is a provision that gives the option of increasing or decreasing assessments in the future and to provide producers the authority to make that decision without additional congressional authorization. It would require a two-thirds vote of the board to either increase or decrease the assessment. That board will be made up of producers who represent the geography and different producer sizes of our industry. It’s also unrealistic to assume that the board would increase the assessment rate without having years of data, return on investment studies, and wide-spread industry support.
Could the program expand to include pavers or SRW units?
The Order that the industry is voting on only addresses concrete masonry units. The authorizing legislation does provide for possible future expansion. That potential expansion would require a petition to do so by the industry, another order, and another referendum. None of that is being proposed now.

REFERENDUM

What is the process for the industry to adopt the checkoff?
Based on industry recommendations, the Department of Commerce will develop an Order that provides guidelines for running a compliant program and the process for a referendum. The industry will have an opportunity to provide public comment to the order prior to the referendum.
When would the referendum be held?
Timelines are not firm yet, but the earliest possible referendum could be sometime in 2020.
What is required to pass the referendum?
The Order establishing the checkoff becomes effective if approved by a majority of manufacturers voting who also represent a majority of the machine cavities in operation of those manufacturers voting in the referendum. Eligible voters are those that represent companies that have manufactured concrete masonry units within the 180 days prior to the start of referendum voting.