As 2019 was coming to a close, I predicted that 2020 would be another strong year. Yet, I cautioned, “Unless something unexpected happens!” Well it happened! So, when the pandemic unfolded in March, I thought, “Well, this year is really going to come off the tracks … demand for doors and windows is really going to soften.” I love it when I am wrong!

Now, door and window fabricators are experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand and they just can’t keep up.

Back in 2009, as the industry experienced a downturn, I was forced into the used equipment business. I had customers downsizing because they could not pay their overheads. Some were forced out of business and they had used equipment for sell. I knew the sellers and I knew others seeking used equipment in a shaky economy. A new opportunity was born.

Today, everybody is asking me for people. “Jim, I need some IG guys. Do you know of anyone? I need a truck driver. I need a saw operator. Do you know somebody who wants to work? We hired 50 people and a week later all but five are gone! They said the job wasn’t for them. Some said nothing. We passed by their station after the work break, and they were gone. They just left!”

Well, I thought, “Maybe I should also be in the people business too?” Except, used equipment is way easier to find than people!

I have window manufacturers who are working their people for 12-hour days and six days a week. It is burning them out. As a result, they are walking out the door. “It’s a catch 22!” exclaims one plant manager. “We are asking them to work long hours because we don’t have enough people. However, we are burning them out, so they are leaving. Our people problem suddenly became worse!”

So, with the results of the election still undecided, one thing is for certain: Whoever wins the White House has their work cut out for them. This country needs to get more of our people back to work. Whether it’s a vaccine or some sort of hazard pay, I’m not sure where the solution lies, but America needs her workers. They are the backbone that made this nation great, and they are what we need to continue to be the world’s economic leader.

Right now, new homes are selling as fast as they are being built. The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) is also looking good for the balance of this year and continues to look strong heading into the first quarter of 2021. The Joint Center For Housing Studies, in this report, predicts LIRA to slow by mid-2021 as the pandemic lingers. However, I tend to disagree. The same pandemic induced factors that are keeping people home and on the ground are going to continue to fuel home based remodeling expenditures as well as investments in RVs, so I am not agreeing that a slowdown is in sight until a proven vaccine is developed and people start traveling and flying again.

In the meantime, the people problem is the only thing holding our industry back. Anybody have ideas?

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