Educational Opportunities in and after the Great Recession

The most knowledgeable and influential person in North America concerning brickmaking is Mr. Richard Bickerstaff of Columbus, Georgia. Mr. Bickerstaff is the former President of Bickerstaff Clay Products (now part of Boral Bricks). Despite the fact that he is over 90 years old, Mr. Bickerstaff remains vitally interested in bricks. He has been a frequent visitor to Europe, where he is known by many of the most influential people in the European industry. I am aware that his opinion continues to be sought relative to commercial activities, and these discussions are held at his country estate called the “Broken Arrow”. I went to consult with Mr. Bickerstaff recently and had coffee at the “Broken Arrow”.

My purpose was to seek his advice on the current recession. We agreed on one thing – that the brick business will recover, but it will be different after the recovery. This has been the lesson of history after any national trauma such as a war. The future is always different.

From my perspective as a Professor, I cannot offer you any advice on the economic situation concerning the recovery. I am aware of the recent slowdown in commercial construction in the USA, after it had remained strong even in the early years of the recession. Now, the residential market for bricks is beginning to show some signs of life. Most experts predict a long and slow improvement.

Is the business cycle tracking the climate change cycle? In other words, are we now to expect these extremes during business cycles, as we now have with extremes of weather during the change of seasons?

As a Professor, my business is education, and I recognize that we have lost a wealth of brickmaking knowledge with retirements during the recession. As business does ramp up, where will we find qualified people to operate the brick plants? I already see an early interest in education this year, as we have sufficient enrollment to present our Brick Manufacturer’s Short Course for the first time in three years.

At this year’s Clemson Brick Forum, we are featuring the major equipment suppliers on our program. We have asked them to present their best ideas to improve productivity and quality. With this very unusual approach (for us), we are trying to get the most recent information in the hands of brickmakers. Our theme of “Vendor Technical Leadership” recognizes that the suppliers are the technical driving force in North America’s production-driven brick manufacturing sector.

Responding to the need for education, we are adding a search engine to the opening page of our website ( for public access so that past Forum presentation titles are searchable by key word, word in the title, presenter, and presenter’s company. All persons will be able to purchase a DVD of any English language presentation in our digital library extending back 30 years.  We hope that this service is available when you read these lines.

I am constantly looking for ways to be of service to the global brick industry. It remains a real privilege for me to work with brick people everywhere.

Denis Brosnan,
Professor and Program Director
The Clemson Brick Forum/Clemson University (USA)

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