The roofing industry association with the longest name—the China National Waterproof Building Materials Industry Association—recently held its fifth exhibition; this year, it was in Beijing. An NRCA delegation participated in the event and included NRCA President Bob Daly, president of Kaw Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., Kansas City, Kan.; Daly's wife, Kelly; NRCA Director of International Relations Olicia Hinojosa; NRCA Safety Consultant Bill Steinmetz; and yours truly.
Herewith, a few impressions from the trip:
- Everything people say about jet lag is true except that it can be mitigated. No human can withstand 14 hours in a confined space without consequence.
- If you have doubts about why our steel and concrete prices are high, take that 14-hour plane ride. China is industrializing at a rate of 30 million people annually. And we think we have infrastructure issues.
- Oh, and 40,000 automobiles are being added every month into what already is a gridlocked mess in Beijing.
- Construction technology has advanced immeasurably since my first visit to Beijing in 2000. This is, in part, a result of the integration of Western technology and industriousness of the Chinese, who, by the way, could not be nicer or more generous to visiting Americans.
- Improvements in the construction industry clearly extend to roof systems. Specifications and products are better, and the industry is much better organized.
- Foreign capital is pouring into China as its GDP growth hovers at around 10 percent. European companies, in particular, are more noticeable—including European roofing materials manufacturers.
- In Beijing, it's all about the Olympics. In 2008, automobile driving will be rationed, factories will be closed and other measures will be taken to clean up the air before Aug. 8, 2008. (Opening ceremonies begin 8/08/08 at 8:08:08. Yes, superstitions matter.) And the Olympic facilities are astonishing.
- Disregard much of what you hear about Chinese food. It is uniformly good though it is sometimes best not to ask follow-up questions about its origins.
The Chinese roofing exhibition has become so successful that it is now an annual event. In June 2008, it will be held in Shanghai—yet another accommodation to the Olympics. NRCA continues to sponsor the event and can help anyone interested in securing booth space or simply attending to learn what it's all about. It's a trip worth taking.