As I was saying …

To a better new year

We've now put another mediocre year, roofing-wise, behind us. 2010 was a year where we saw modest improvements in some market sectors. The residential construction market, for example, "rebounded" to levels that were more common 25 years ago. In the nonresidential sector, our industry was saved, such as it was, by the public and institutional sectors. Let's all say a quiet prayer of thanks for schools, prisons and the Department of Defense.

So what's in store for 2011? Allow me a few observations: First, it's reasonable, unfortunately, to expect more of the same. Until employer confidence returns, construction activity will stagnate. And until there is greater and easier access to capital, new construction projects will remain on hold. More homes will be built in 2011 than in 2010 but only about one-third as many as were built just five years ago.

Second, we are not too far from a time when pent-up demand for roof system replacement will cheer us. There are only so many roof patches that can be made and only so many reroofing decisions that can be deferred. When the economy improves, we may well be at the front of it.

Third, watch out for regulators. One outcome of the Republican victories in the November 2010 elections is that regulators—especially in Washington, D.C.—have a new sense of urgency to get their work done. 2011 will be a critical year for us to be vigilant. And to fight back.