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Full Steam Ahead for Metal Building Market

Date:December 01, 2021

By Greg Pasley, Ph.D., PE, Chairman, Metal Building Manufacturers Association

The industry is primed for great growth.

Recently, I spent several weeks in front of many metal builders and contractors, and I was impressed by one thing—their unyielding resiliency. These professionals have adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 and have managed to successfully run businesses in an environment of constant change, volatility, supply chain shortages and a labor crunch unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

Despite the difficulties, the overwhelming feedback from these construction professionals was enthusiastic, and they projected a positive outlook, fueled by a robust economy and a confidence that investment growth will continue through 2022.

Here are some facts to back up their confidence:

  • According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), design activity is roaring back as more and more places reopen—and this is happening despite ballooning costs for construction materials and persistent delivery delays.
  • Dodge Data & Analytics reports that construction starts are forecast to continue to rise in our key active segments (commercial, industrial and institutional) through 2024.
  • Moody's Investors Service is touting that the acceleration in inflation is transitory, despite recent Consumer Price Index spikes. The bond credit rating company is also reporting that the global gross domestic product growth will soon surpass 5%, though they express some concern.
  • Multiple steel producers have announced that they are expanding or have plans to expand production.

Look Back to Plan for the Future

As we look ahead, it helps to first look back to understand what we gained in the pandemic environment. First of all, we learned that we are essential. Our work matters. Companies need us. The government needs us. Economic growth is impacted by the buildings our industry puts in place and the speed with which we manufacture and build them. Secondly, we have learned to be more flexible. We have adjusted to abrupt changes in customer expectations, we’ve adapted when employees have COVID-19 diagnoses and have learned how to immediately implement measures to protect other staff.

We have changed communication paradigms that have resulted in great efficiencies, such as online meetings and training, attending virtual conferences, changing work schedules to accommodate both in-office and home office efficiencies. (And, speaking of online training, be sure to check out the 50+ video resources available at youtube.com/mbmamedia. You can download a list of all videos by category from the MBMA blog, mbma.com/blog.)

We have also improved our understanding of the importance of diversity within the workplace. For many, it’s taken a critical labor shortage to change the perception of what a metal building employee looks like. We’ve opened our eyes to a much broader view and have found that our openness has led to changes that make our companies stronger, more future focused and better equipped to be inclusive and open minded.

Labor remains a critical issue across the country, and especially in our industry. Are you advocating for your employees? Are you developing a culture that will attract and retain an enthused, reliable and engaged workforce? This focus will ensure our companies and our industry grow and remain relevant for generations.

What Now?

So, what does all this mean for the metal building industry? I believe that, as we continue to adapt to the current trends in business and the challenges exacerbated by a worldwide pandemic, we need to re-double our efforts to enhance our stronghold in the low-rise building market. Now, more than ever, it’s time to roll up our sleeves.

A good friend in the industry likes to point out that in every vehicle you drive, you’ll always see one thing that never changes—the rearview mirror is only a fraction the size of the windshield. That analogy reminds us that we need to remember what’s behind us, but that our focus clearly needs to be on what is in front of us, on the bigger picture—and plan strategically to deal with whatever is ahead.

So, let's not lose sight of the past, and use what we learned in a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic to push us forward. Let’s be diligent in educating our customers and our potential customers on the advantages of metal buildings. Rather than sit back and relax, it is time to push ourselves forward to take advantage of the abundant market opportunities ahead.

Greg Pasley, Ph.D., PE, is chairman of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association. More information about the association is available at www.mbma.com.

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Reprinted with permission from Metal Construction News.

Download a copy of the article here. Download a copy of video resources here.