Now that the holidays are over and the New Year has begun, it is time for us to get back to business. And I have some good news to report, the future looks promising. Once again, Stone World brings you the results of its annual survey of American stone fabricators, which polled owners and managers of shops — large and small — from around the country, and I think you will be pleased with the results. I know I was.

In the past several years, the annual survey has been showing more positive signs of recovery, and last year’s results were the most optimistic in a long time — until the 2015 report. This year’s survey offers even more hopeful comments from fabricators, and the numbers surpass the previous year.

The full Stone World Fabricator Market Forecast begins on page 42 of this issue, and I encourage you to read it to see the direction our industry is heading. To give you a brief preview, I thought I’d share some highlights of the report.

• 72% of fabricators watched their business grow during 2014, compared to 68% in 2013. It was a tie for those who reported sales remained the same and those who saw a decline at 14% each.

• 81% of fabricators said they expected sales revenue to increase in 2015. Another 16% said it would remain the same, and only 3% anticipate a decline in sales this year. On average, the fabricators who expect an increase see their sales growing by 17%.

• When asked to compare overall industry business conditions today to those of a year ago, 65% said that conditions had improved, while 27% said they remained stable and 9% said they were worse.

• The fabricators who participated in the Stone Worldsurvey expressed even greater confidence over the next five to 10 years. A total of 89% of those polled believe that sales will increase over this period. This is up 6% from the 2013 survey. The average sales revenue growth in the next five to 10 years is expected to be 24%. It was very close between those fabricators who predict sales in the next five to 10 years to remain the same (6%) or decline (5%).

• Equipment purchases will be on the rise in 2015, with 68% of respondents planning to invest. The purchases will range from CNC stoneworking centers (28%) to digital/electronic templating (19%) and hand tools, which continue to be the most popular purchase (52%).

• Personnel is expected to be an investment focus for the coming year (46%) — up from 34% in 2014. Additional areas of investment include marketing (37%), stock (27%), and improving their showrooms and facilities (both 23%).

• Safety remains a top priority for many shops, with 37% of the fabricators polled planning to invest in material handling and transportation equipment — spending a mean of $29,056. A total of 15% will be investing in air/water treatment systems.

So as you can see, the future seems bright for the stone industry. It is definitely encouraging to hear fabricators’ positive comments. It should be a fairly prosperous year, with growth in both equipment and customer bases. If you are a supplier, this is good news for you too. Fabricators are looking to invest, so work with them to provide the best technology to help them succeed.