In this job, I spend a lot of time talking to stone industry members. These days, of course, much of the discussion is about the economy, and how soon it will be until we really see a difference out there. It is a tedious, but necessary chore - sort of like brushing your teeth. You do it every day because you need to, but it’s not all that remarkable.
For as long as three years now (depending on where you’re located in the U.S.), most conversations among stone industry members have begun and ended with a discussion of the economy - specifically how bad it is and whether or not it is ever going to recover. And while we have a long road ahead of us until we’re all the way back, all indications are that the worst is behind us.
In this issue of Stone World, we present our annual Fabricator Market Forecast (page 34), where hundreds of stone fabrication professionals from around the country offer their predictions for the coming year as well as their expectations for the long-term. Moreover, this study gauges how stone fabricators plan to spend their money in 2010 - in real dollar amounts.
With the issue that you currently hold in your hands, Stone World Magazine officially marks 25 years of covering the international stone industry. I’ve been with the magazine for 17 of those years, and if I could have written this column two and a half years ago, I’d be able to say that it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
Although I am in contact with individual stone fabricators on an almost-daily basis, I don’t often get to sit in a room full of fabricators outside of the trade show circuit. And since the last major U.S. trade show was Coverings back in April, I was eager to gauge the collective viewpoint of the stone fabricators who gathered in my home state of New Jersey last month for a segment of the Marble Institute of America/Stone World Industry Education series.
Like pretty much everyone else out there, I am at a loss as to when we will truly be out of this recession. Two years ago, when it became clear that there was trouble on the horizon, the general consensus was that we would see some sort of downward financial “adjustment,” but it likely wouldn’t be long term - and certainly not this severe.
In my travels as editor of Stone World, I have toured large-scale stoneworking plants in locales around the world. These trips have taken me to classic stoneworking villages in Italy, Spain and Germany as well as relative “newcomers” in Brazil and China. However, in 16-plus years at Stone World, I never had the chance to check out the stone industry in India.
As is often the case during my travels, some inspiration for a column finds its way into my head, and I have to get it out before the normalcy of returning home wipes it away. That is why I am typing this column from my hotel room in Nuremberg, Germany, only a few hours after the international Stone+tec trade fair closed its doors.
In speaking with people at the recent Coverings exhibition in Chicago, IL, the universal sentiment I heard was “We are seeing some good signs. Things are starting to pick up.” This was true of both fabricators and stone suppliers at the event, and even some of the machinery suppliers said that they were pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest they were seeing on the show floor.
Over the past few weeks, a hard-working editor on the Stone World staff took quite a bit of time to compile the year-end stone import and export statistics that are recorded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. To my mild surprise - and contrary to what I’ve been hearing from many stone suppliers - the total was not “zero.”
In this issue of Stone World, read more about the new Silica Rule, which was recently announced by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and scheduled to go into effect on June 23, 2016.