Once again, Stone World will be moderating a Fabricators Forum as part of the education program at Coverings in Orlando, FL, - taking place on Wednesday, March 24, from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. The session will be organized as a roundtable discussion, which will allow participants to share their professional experiences related to stone fabrication today.

In years past, this forum has attracted over 100 participants from the stone fabrication sector, and participants have explained the specific methods and practices that have made their shops successful. The session will include lively discussions on technical issues such as CNC technology and fabricating methods as well as industry topics such as slab quality and even business ethics.

For more information, visit www.coverings.com, or e-mail Stone World Editor Michael Reis at michael@stoneworld.com.


A survey commissioned by the Marble Institute of America (MIA) at the December 2003 StonExpo trade show in Atlanta, GA, reveals that the majority of stone professionals in attendance expect 2004 to be a better year for their businesses and the U.S. economy.

A total of 85.4% of the 400 attendees personally surveyed by the Hudson Economics Group, L.L.C. are optimistic about the U.S. economy for 2004. More specifically, 26.6% believe the economy will grow 1-2%; 24.3% think it will grow 2-3%; and 13.9% expect 3-5% growth.

Survey participants, which included natural stone fabricators, wholesalers, distributors, importers, finishers and quarriers, expect their businesses to perform better than the U.S. economy in 2004, with the majority expecting to see growth between 3 and 30%.

When polled about their businesses, specifically their plans for capital investments and employment and their most significant business challenges, responses were as follows: 42.2% plan on investing 0 to $100,000; 26.0% plan on investing $100,000 to $250,000; 6.4% plan on investing $250,000 to $500,000; 6.4% plan on investing $500,000 to $1 million; and 4.0% plan on investing more than $1 million.

More than 75% plan to bring on new hires, as opposed to just replacing departing employees or those laid off or fired. And the most common business problems and challenges were as follows: personnel (26.7%); competitive market (22.3%); cash flow (20.4%); economy (11.2%) and suppliers (6.8%). A total of 5.8% of respondents stated “other,” and 6.8% did not answer.

“The general optimism this survey reveals among natural stone professionals is well-founded,” says Garis F. Distelhorst, MIA Executive Vice President. “Demand for natural stone continues to build in the commercial and residential marketplaces despite the lagging economy. Helping to drive that demand is a growing appreciation of natural stone's superiority over engineered products, both in beauty and value.

“MIA is proud to play a key role in educating design professionals and consumers about real natural stone,” Distelhorst continued, “and in the year ahead, we will continue to offer our members the technical expertise and business advantages they need to grow their businesses.”