GlassBuild concluded ten days ago and many companies are already focusing on the International Builders’ Show to be held January 22-24 in Las Vegas. Before we race ahead to IBS, though, we should take a final look at GlassBuild and what the show indicated about the overall health of the industry. The event occupied a smaller footprint this year. We’ve never seen the entire registration area subsumed into the show floorplan. Once inside the show, one encountered the only other negative that I spotted during GlassBuild. There was no crush of people waiting to get in and the aisles were pretty easy to navigate. While that makes it easier on attendees, it means attendance was most likely down.

A pessimist would stop at those two points, shrug and figure the industry is still declining. However, conversations with several dozen companies over the three days revealed a bedrock of optimism that was very refreshing. In past years, optimists and grumblers might have attended in equal numbers. This year, however, only a few companies indicated that things are still getting worse or are simply trending sideways. All other company executives indicated that things are improving. While most companies started 2012 very strong, that turned out to be a “head fake” for most companies and things slowed by late spring. However, the year is chugging along well and most companies reported being ahead of last year as of GlassBuild. Many groups reported that quote volume is through the roof.

As far as their capital plans for the year, companies fell into roughly two groups. The majority of the companies reported that they were back in the good graces of their primary senior lender. Such companies typically believed they’d be able to meet their capital needs in the next year from that lender and internal cashflow. Other companies shared that their lender seemed to be stuck in the downturn and not embracing the recovery. Fortunately, the prevailing opinions about the market are improving and it should be easy to refinance a laggard lender out of the picture.

A final measure of the industry outlook came from the increased number of companies that report they are seeking acquisitions. When companies seek to buy other companies, they are making an affirmative vote on the industry and they obviously have the capital to back that vote. All in all, we’re shaping up for a strong next 12 months.

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