Volume 41, Issue 5 - May 2006

FromtheFabricator

How's Business?
How Businesses are Fairing Across the Country
by Max Perilstein

How’s business? I get asked that question a lot. What amazes me is how the answers can be so different. In my past life I was in one static region and however business was, it was (or as my favorite saying these days goes “it is what it is”). Nowadays, however, things are different; I am all over the place and I get to experience so many regions that I find many answers to that question.

In Michigan
Here, “it sucks,” business, that is. The state is struggling thanks to the hold the auto industry has on Detroit. Once the effects of cost cutting by the big three went downstream everyone suffered. Michigan is now rated number one in all of the wrong business categories, such as growth and the economy. So the good folks of the great state of Michigan must hope the auto industry gets a jump-start or that some much needed diversity comes down the pike. Otherwise, this could be a very difficult stretch. It’s funny, a Michigan glazing company would be blown away if it set up shop in one of the “hot areas” in North America, but because most are committed to the way of life there, they’ll try and ride this storm out.

In Vegas
Here, business is “awesome baby, all sevens and blackjack!” Because of my love for basketball, I was just in Vegas and was blown away at both the residential and commercial construction. I mean it’s going crazy. While rumor had it that some of those million-dollar condos and time-shares may be scrapped due to lack of interest, I sure as heck didn’t see any evidence of that. The other amazing thing about Vegas is seemingly everything is value-added, which is obviously nice.

In the Silicone Valley
Business is “steady and normal—thank goodness.” Back during the dot com boom the glass and glazing business went through the roof, just like everything else. Money was no object in that area: buildings were popping up and people were buying up residential glass like it was water. In fact one shower door installer told me that one dot com genius would have him come out every other month to replace his shower door with a new and different style. Yes, money had to be disposable back then. But the boom busted and things got hairy. Now, thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple making smart, sensible and amazing products, the economy has bounced back and, for our industry, has settled into consistent, normal business.

Along the Gulf Coast
“We’re hanging in there.” Yes, there will be business, but a lot of companies lost everything they had during the storms and, for a while, they lost their employees and co-workers. No doubt they’ll be busy there helping to rebuild, but the reason they are so busy is one no one wants to ever repeat. Our industry has a big stake in improving the building envelope and we step up to the plate with products and service; it’s just a shame that we’ve needed to develop these items because the storms hit so often and with so much force.

For the Residential Supplier
“Doing good, was better, just hope we can keep rolling on.” On the residential side the major boom has probably subsided a bit, but business is still solid. Houses will always need glass and houses will always be built (at least until we take up every last square inch of land) so the supply needs should always be at least decent. Who knows, though, if they will go crazy again like they did in the last few years? 

This is just a sampling of how business is throughout the country. There are thousands of different opinions and angles, but all in all, our industry is healthy and working hard to serve its end customer. We take a ton of hits from many different sources, but for the most part our business is good business—no matter where you are or what you do. 

Max Perilstein serves as vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass. His column appears bi-monthly.

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