A Look Back, and What Lies Ahead

Jerry Smith / January 2019

I hope everyone had joyous and safe holidays and is ready to start the New Year. As we begin, I have been reflecting on 2018 and thinking about what 2019 has in store for our industry. From conversations with many AWCI members across the country, I think the general consensus is that 2018 has been a very positive year. Most members have told me they had great sales and volume.
    
Still, many markets are struggling and margins are tight. There are a number of factors for this, but it seems the biggest reason is too many contractors not fairly reflecting market costs. Most of our members have also expressed that they have substantial backlogs to carry them well into 2019.
    
Forecasts call for continued growth throughout North America, especially in the commercial sector, with increased spending on office, lodging, retail and other commercial facilities. We also anticipate substantial growth in the industrial, healthcare and education sectors. The industry is further bolstered by strong growth for new construction in regions hit by natural disasters. The newly enacted tax reform bill, which dramatically reduces tax rates for businesses, should in turn create more cash flow for companies to reinvest in their business.
    
Some of the obstacles that we may encounter in 2019 could include continued labor shortages and rising material costs. Interest rates, which could swing up or down, will also have a huge impact on construction growth. Let’s hope they stay low.
    
Meanwhile, I wish everyone a prosperous new year and hope we are all ready to hit the ground running in 2019.

In addition to being 2018–2019 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Smith is president of Baker Drywall Austin, Ltd.