2012 forecast: What geographic areas do you see leading a recovery?

January 24, 2012

The float perspective

Scott Thomsen, Guardian Flat Glass Group
"Time has taught us that taking a regional view of supply and demand is the best strategy in the flat glass industry. For example, right now we’re seeing that North America and parts of Europe have greater supply than demand, while other regions like South America, Russia, and India are experiencing strong glass demand. The driving force is economic growth, which is fueling increased glass consumption on a per capita basis. It’s our view that North America is and will be a cost-effective manufacturing hub for the flat glass business. Glass is a heavy material that demands local production due to freight and logistics costs. We also see the trend that more and more segments, regions and channels are transitioning from standard sizes and options to made-to-order, which means that customers need fast, reliable service and cannot afford to wait 8 weeks for the shipment to arrive from overseas. We are linking our product, supply chain and manufacturing strategies to reduce lead times in our core regions and channels to drive fast industry lead times and therefore local production. This is a global strategy, not just a North American strategy."

Bowie Neumayer, Cardinal Glass Industries
"The hardest hit markets (California, Arizona, Nevada and Florida) will be very slow to recover. Most of the other areas should come back quickly. We are already seeing early signs of this in a few markets."

The fabricator perspective

Nick Sciola, Hartung Glass Industries
"In certain areas on the West Coast, there really have been some spikes in demand; otherwise there has been no recovery west of the Rockies. In the South, in terms of residential, we see some positive signs in Las Vegas and in Phoenix because of the reduction of available capacity with some demand materializing. The Southwest simply has the demographics and climate to draw some demand. It is not much; however, it is probably where the 3 percent to 5 percent growth will happen. We see the South and California leading the recoveries; however, until that really happens, we will continue to have the small, slow growth that will take some time to develop. In Canada, the financial system is much more stable. They are one of only 11 countries that still maintain the highest debt rating. That provides stability and less uncertainty. It is slowing down in Canada from a faster pace; however, it has financial stability, so if there is a viable project, it can secure the financing."

Lewis McAllister, Coral Industries
"It has already started improving a little. We see decent improvement in all of the areas that we cover, which is primarily the Southeast. … Southwest Florida is really showing good growth.

The supplier perspective

Dave Hewitt, EFCO, a Pella Co.
"We are seeing conditions improve in several areas of the country. These markets aren’t so much leading the recovery as such, but rather areas that weren’t hit as hard as some of the others. Areas like the Mid- Atlantic, Northeast, parts of the upper Midwest, Northwest and Texas continue to lead the country. Of course, markets like Arizona, Nevada and Florida, where the housing bust was so prominent, continue to lag in commercial construction."

Diana Perreiah, Kawneer North America
"The New Contracts Awarded data and the Architecture Billings Index indicate that the U.S. Northeast could be the first regional market to show signs of recovery in 2012. The South-Central region, which includes Texas, is also likely to fare better than other markets in the South, West and Midwest."