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.”
This past February, I made my annual trip to Vitória, Brazil, for the Vitória Stone Fair, which takes place in the stone-rich state of Espírito Santo, where much of Brazil’s stone is quarried, processed and ultimately shipped to the U.S. And in the days leading up to the event, I took the opportunity to schedule visits with major stoneworking factories in the Vitória area, near the city and its shipping port, as well as the Cachoeiro region, which is closer to the quarries.
OK, so “absolute zero” is actually a scientific term unrelated to the business world. These past few months, I often feel like it is the level of business in today’s stone industry - or perhaps the latest closing figure for the stock market (as in “The Dow closed today at absolute zero.”)
In the “Forum” section of this issue (page 106),
I had the unfortunate task of recapping the distressing events surrounding the
closure of Rock Tops, a Michigan
firm with multiple operations in several states. Although it is bad news to
hear of any event that leaves stoneworking professionals out of a job, the
closure of Rock Tops is at once a “worst case scenario” and a cautionary
Every year, Stone World’s parent company, BNP Media, conducts an in-depth survey among U.S. stone fabricators. This survey gauges their short-term and long-term market predictions and their capital outlay and purchasing plans for the future.
For this issue, we are excited to share with you four features that focus on using compact and ultrathin slabs in both residential and commercial projects. As these products continue to gain popularity, we wanted to share different ideas of applications, including an upscale dining environment in the interior of a Saks Fifth Avenue.