Economic Forecast and Trends Covered In Glazing Executives Forum

Contract glaziers involved in commercial projects, along with the rest of the construction industry, have been enjoying a strong boom period of late. We can expect this growth to continue through 2008 and possibly into early 2009. However, that, in all likeliness, will change, according to Dr. Jeff Dietrich of The Institute for Trend Research, who predicts the economy will be in recession around 2009 to 2010.

"In the second half of 2008 we'll start to feel the pinch of inflation and rising interest rates," he told attendees of yesterday's Glazing Executive's Forum, which took place in Las Vegas and was sponsored by the National Glass Association. "This next recession will be across the board-everyone needs to be alert," Dietrich added.

Dietrich covered an abundance of information in his presentation, all of which provided insight into how companies can prepare and ready themselves for what they may encounter in the future. One such area he covered was unemployment, which is currently at 4.8 percent. This, he said, is good news. The bad news to low unemployment is that it's tough not only to get skilled labor, but also unskilled labor.

"Invest in your people," said Dietrich. "Don't think unemployment will stay down till the recession; you need to do something to keep your employees."

He also provided a look at some of what we are seeing currently in the economy as well as the different construction segments. Some of the highlights were:

  • Retail sales are doing very well because consumer spending is still very strong;

  • Inflation pressure has continued to come from rising oil prices. He noted that in 1973 the United States was only 28 percent dependent on foreign oil; today we are 63 percent dependent.

He encouraged the importance of companies finding ways to reduce energy costs, saying, "You need to have an energy policy in your company or you don't have a plan for the next three to five years. Save energy and you will save cash."

The growth of China's manufacturing presence in the world economy was also covered. He also said that while China does continue to grow, there are issues stalking its future, some of which include the country's legal system (court of no appeals); environmental and health issues (China has no health system); no education system; and competition for resources and "cheap" labor (from the Philippines, India, Vietnam, etc.)

"China will not continue to grow exponentially," Dietrich said. "As the largest nation on the face of the earth, when the United States goes into a recession, others will feel the pinch."

But the main point of Dietrich's presentation was how to prepare for the future.

"Ask yourself, 'What next? What will I do this time to mitigate the downturn that's coming? What will keep us going when the economy slows down?" Some advice he offered included: selling at the top of the business cycle; conserving some cash; and finding ways to diversify.

As part of yesterday's forum, a number of other topics were covered in afternoon breakout sessions. Topics discussed included contracts and legal issues, hurricane and blast-mitigation systems, new construction designs, immigration and workforce and more.

The forum preceded GlassBuild America, which opens today at the Las Vegas Convention Center and runs through Thursday.

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