Volume 39, Issue 5, May 2004
Itís Been Awhile and Some Things Need to be Said
by Max Perilstein
The last few months have been crazy for me. Between open houses, shows, industry events and just your normal everyday work schedule I have been swamped. I am finally catching up and with so many subjects to write about I decided to get it all off my chest now.
Top of the List
First on the list is the adventure otherwise known as the industry forecast. As the year got off the ground, more and more forecasts found their way to me and, amazingly, no two read the same. I guess it depends on how you read the various predictions or, better yet, who is doing the research. On that note, folks such as Nick Limb from Ducker who specialize in our industry do a solid job of reporting the numbers as accurately as possible. Itís when you go outside of their safety that you get puzzled. Being a stat freak (as a life-long sports fanatic), I enjoy this side of the business. However, the inconsistencies have me baffled.
One night while surfing the Internet I saw a study that stated Indiana would lead the nation in 2004 in commercial construction starts. This surprised me, but the site was legitimate and I figured these guys know more than I do. The next week I received a magazine with a study by the American General Contractors that had Indiana lumped in a group with Michigan, Ohio and Illinois at the bottom of 2004 commercial construction. So, as my brother tells me over and over, there are three sides to every storyóthe two sides listed above and the truth. Hopefully for everyone involved in our business in those states, the first report I read is the more accurate.
Item two is the Chinese factor. I just canít escape it. After writing my November column on the China dumping issue (see the November 2003 USGlass, page 16), I have been inundated with e-mails. In addition, while walking the GlassBuild show in March I was stopped three times by people wanting to discuss more. Ironically, the three people had differing views. One thought I was an overly patriotic, loser businessman nut who would rue the day I took on this subject. The second thanked me for bringing the subject to light, but was really stuck on where he stood. The third thought it was the best article heíd read in years (he obviously had me confused with Bob Lawrence).
From My Standpoint
Anyway, it is a subject that will not go away. I am comfortable with where I stand and how I feel. People can agree, disagree, love or despise my stand, but at the end of the day I worry that the growth of these imports will steamroll this industry. My family has roots in the glass and aluminum business dating back to 1898 and seeing the changes on the horizon simply scares me beyond belief.
The final item to hit is that of consolidation in our industry. I was not at Glass Week, but from reading the reports in this magazine, I understand that issue was addressed during a panel discussion. One of the participants said he saw it slowing because the merits of consolidation are [not] positive. He also said the past few years have not been good for buyers. Obviously, thatís his personal opinion and probably based on experience.
Iíve been on both sides of the consolidation issue, it can be good and bad as a lot of factors weigh in to it. However, I think if you take a look at the past few years you will see that it worked more than it failed. I also believe there are still more to come. We wonít have the consolidating boom like we had in the 1990s, because there are simply not as many available companies to tuck into yours as there were then. But you will see some major companies picking up some independents. There is no doubt that the shrewd businessman is always looking for the edge in the marketplace, and with the market tight right now, the timing could be ripe for some takeovers.
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