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From the jobsite to the classroom

Bob Harris applying his decorative experience to training

By Jim Peterson

(Editors note: This interview taken from an article by Jim Peterson in the August/September 2004 issue of Concrete Concepts, has been modified to reflect additional services in the year since it was first published.)

 

To say the last two years for Bob Harris have been a whirlwind might be the understatement of the year. 
     
Harris, president of the Decorative Concrete Institute in Douglasville, GA, left his position at the Scofield Institute and went on his own in July 2003.
     Since then, he has set up a product manufacturing, distribution and training facility in Douglasville; held various seminars on topics such as acid-etch staining, epoxy systems, concrete countertops, skim coats, polished concrete, stamped concrete and sandblast stencils; consulted on a varitey of projects around the United States; presented at World of Concrete and World of Concrete Mexico; contracted a variety of high-profile installations; and authored Bob Harris' Guide to Stained Concrete Interior Floors and Bob Harris' Guide to Stamped Concrete, and, to be released this Fall, Bob Harris' Guide to Overlays and Toppings.
     "Although these first two years have been overwhelming at times, when I get in front of a class to start teaching, I realize that the teaching -- whether in person or through my books -- is where my passion lies," says Harris.
     Central to his ability to teach is his actual experience with the products he trains contractors to use. Harris worked as senior superintendent for six years in Disney theme parks doing decorative, "themed concrete" work with integral color, dry shake color hardeners and chemical stains.

      "Working at the Magic Kingdom with some of the most creative people in the world was tremendously gratifying," says Harris.
 Some of his projects were

 
"Port Orleans," "Magnolia Bend," "Disney's Vacation Club" and Phase 1 and 2 of the Disney All-Star Hotel, as well as all of the theme parks. Many of the projects pushed the parameters of what had previously been done with decorative concrete.
     On the Disney properties, Harris did everything from casting tree branches to alligator paw prints. On one project, the project manager asked him to place paw prints to simulate that a dog had run through the concrete. "That's not very creative," responded Harris, "We should have a real dog run through it." Shortly thereafter, Harris had clearance for his 100-lb. Labrador retriever to run through the fresh concrete. The project was a success, with permanent paw prints still in the concrete today.
     Harris credits his late father Robert Harris for his strong work ethic and teaching him to go the extra mile. He remembers being 5 or 6 years old when his father had him stripping lumber and cleaning stakes for the family company, Harris and Harris Concrete.

"I realize that the

teaching --

whether in

person or

through my books

__ is where my

passion lies."

      In August 2003, Harris combined his concrete construction field experience and teaching experience, and partnered with The Concrete Network in an agreement to publish a series of guides on decorative concrete. "Getting what I've learned down on paper has been a dream of mine for more than 10 years. At first the idea was to do one book on decorative concrete. It was decided, however, that trying to fit everything about decorative concrete into one book would be a bad idea because it would be a huge book, and it would take too long. Instead, it was decided to build a series of guides and make it into a collection called, The Bob Harris Decorative Concrete Collection," notes Harris.
     Once the idea of a collection was decided upon, Harris went to work on the first chosen topic: acid staining. He says, "The idea for the book on acid staining was decided upon in August 2003, and was complete and available for sale at the World of Concrete in Orlando in February of 2004, so things moved along rapidly."
     Harris couldn't be any more pleased with the success of the guide.
     "Comments about the guide have been very rewarding. It is amazing the amount of questions we are receiving worldwide, Thailand, China, Canada, Austraila, etc., as a result of the guide sales. We are getting a lot of requests to train in those locations also," says Harris. The highiest compliment, according to Harris, is when a guide owner calls to say the information in the guide has helped in so many instances out on the jobsite.
           Bob Harris' Guide to Stained Concrete Interior Floors has been a bestseller since its release -- selling more than 800 copies per month through the American Concrete Institute, Portland Cement Association, The Concrete Network and dozens of construction supplyhouses and architectural bookstores.
     Harris is as excited about the guide on stamped concrete which came out in October, as he was about the staining guide. "Decorative concrete contractors can prospe from the demand for stamped concrete by learning to create beautiful, durable stamped concrete using the latest techniques and procedures. There are currently no books available on stamping concrete, so I feel this book can make a big contribution to the industry," says Harris.
     According to Harris, "The decorative concrete industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and the growth an sometimes be hard to keep a handle on. People ar getting into the industry from other industries, and decorative concrete is no longer a niche. It has become mainstream. I hope to play an important role in getting good information out to the industry through seminars and in printed form."
                 
Jim Peterson is founder and president of ConcreteNetwork.com (www.concretenetwork.com), a website serving more than 400,000 visitors per month, and a principal in High Grade Form, Inc., a foundation contractor located in Perris, California.