Concrete bleeding can be a harmful thing, unless it’s red, white and blue. An Upstate New York decorative concrete business is making a major transition and doing it in a patriotic way. Stampcrete International, Ltd., a privately owned company in Liverpool, is not only opening a new wholesale outlet, but also intends on hiring veterans returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure comes in the wake of Vice President Joe Biden’s recent message for all Americans regarding hiring veterans. His focus on the issue of veterans' employment is particularly important now that so many of the country’s enlisted men and women are coming home.
“Every American business out there: If you want somebody who knows how to handle pressure, billions of dollars worth of equipment, who knows how to operate under fire, hire a veteran. We have an obligation. They fought over here. They have gone through these God-awful sands and deserts in the middle of a war. They are in God-forsaken places in Afghanistan. They shouldn’t have to come home and fight for a job,” Biden said recently in Baghdad while monitoring withdrawal efforts in the Middle East. A veteran himself, Stampcrete CEO P. Michael Fennessy said he wants to help stimulate the economy and support those who have been on the front lines fighting for the country’s freedom. Fennessy’s efforts at reinventing his business model are geared to provide a win-win scenario for all involved, including an industry wracked by recession and returning war veterans looking for work.
The U.S. housing and home building market has been crippled throughout the recession, seeing a 50-plus percent decline in sales. Stampcrete Wholesale Outlet will sell directly to all contractors. Its line of equipment and materials will be offered at wholesale pricing. Stampcrete is preparing to launch its new look in 2012.
“This will greatly help contractors improve their profits margins, feed their families and stay in business. There are no other suppliers in America offering this concept. Most of them sell through distributors and have to keep their pricing high. We will be the lowest priced supplier to this industry in America,” Fennessy said. The small-scale concrete and landscape contractor will stay in business because of increased volume, Fennessy said. Subsequently, Stampcrete will then be in a position to hire additional workforce, with the emphasis being on hiring veterans returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fennessy displays the red, white and blue proudly on his buildings along with an eagle measure 30-by-30 feet. “Vets are getting shortchanged after their service and putting their lives on the line,” he said. “They are coming back to no jobs.”
The national unemployment rate for veterans hovers around 14 percent while the nation stands at about 9 percent. “They are getting penalized after putting their lives on the line. There is something imbalanced there,” he said. “We’re a small company wanting to make a comeback with products made in America. We want to get people back to work and lower the cost for contractors to do business so they can broaden their market share. We’re going to do this with people coming back from war. We’re trying to help several sectors,” he added. “We are truly an All-American company manufacturing made-in-America equipment and materials,” said Karen R. Fennessy, company president. Concrete contractors that use decorative stamping equipment and supplies have seen their business drop over 50 percent and thousands have gone bankrupt over the past four years. One of the key players in the invention of decorative concrete, Bomanite, filed bankruptcy several years ago. It had been doing business since 1955.
Stampcrete manufactures concrete stamping tools, integral colors, color hardeners, colored release agents, colored etching stains, sealers and reinforcing fibers used in the placement of decorative stamped concrete. Meanwhile, New York state’s housing market continues to be sluggish in the midst of a recession which refuses to loosen its grip. Lewis A. Dubuque, executive vice president of the New York State Builders Association, said over the past year, there has been an “ever-so-slight” recovery in the New York state housing market.
Permits are up 25 percent compared to 2010, but that is mainly due to a large increase in multi-family housing, he said. Single-family homes are actually down 21 percent from 2010, he said. “You have to take into consideration 2010 was terrible for the housing industry in New York. So while there are some glimmers of hope across the state, we still have a long way to go,” Dubuque added.
“Obviously with the current economic climate, there are not many encouraging signs out there indicating that the housing market will improve over the short term,” he said.
Lou Sorendo is the associate editor for Local News, Inc., in Oswego, N.Y., publishers of Oswego County Business Magazine, 55 Plus magazine and In Good Health newspaper.