— Victoria K. Sicaras

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Although the prices of cement and concrete-related products have been on the rise, the skyrocketing price of oil in the last three years has made the concrete industry more competitive, especially in road-building. Source: Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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A string of mild winters lulled customers into keeping less salt in reserve, contributing to shortages when a heavy winter drove 2007 sales to a near-record high of 20.3 million tons. Complete 2008 figures aren't in yet, but first-half sales were 12.4% higher than the same period a year earlier — and more salt was sold than for all of 2006. Source: Salt Institute