Tim Gregorski
Tim Gregorski

It has been quite a year, to say the least, as the construction industry was hammered by the uncertainty surrounding the residential marketplace, and the trickle-down effect now impacting the commercial marketplace. I have spoken with many of you in recent months and the consensus is: We may be staggering, but we're still standing, and now, we are preparing for a counter attack.

I recently watched the film “When We Were Kings,” a documentary about the 1974 Muhammad Ali and George Foreman heavyweight boxing championship title fight held in Zaire. As I was watching the film, more importantly the fight itself, I could not help but see the parallels between the beating Ali was taking, and the beating our industry has received in 2008.

For eight rounds, Ali took Foreman's assault, strategically leaning against the ropes absorbing every punch offered by Foreman. As Foreman exhausted himself, Ali defended himself and patiently planned his attack. Near the end of the eighth, Ali went on the offensive sending Foreman to the canvas, where he was counted out. Ali was declared winner in one of boxing's all-time greatest fights.

This year, many contractors in our industry have been pinned up against the ropes, taking a beating from the slumping construction industry—your George Foreman, if you will.

Like Ali, it's time to plan your strategy to get off the ropes and face 2009 head on. But it's not going to be an easy year, according to the 2009 U.S. Markets Construction Overview, authored by the FMI Corp., Raleigh, N.C. FMI expects the tiring commercial construction market to face an approximately 18% drop in spending compared to 2008, as retailers slow expansion efforts due to recession. Despite the grim figures, there is still work out there.

As we have said before, diversification can help you sustain profitability in 2009. Look into repair and rehabilitation work. According to recent editorial research, as well as feedback we received from contractors during our Industry Roundtable discussion, contractors are reporting an increase in the amount of concrete repair and rehab work they are conducting. In addition to contractors becoming involved in decorative concrete, the repair and rehabilitation niche, as well as health care, educational, manufacturing, and transportation construction, are all areas poised for growth in 2009 and beyond, according to FMI.

As competition increases, the truth is you may end up taking a few more punches in 2009. Using the proper planning and preparation with an emphasis on enhancing your employees productivity and efficiency, it may be only a matter of time before your business is back on the offensive.

On another note, in less than two months World of Concrete will take place in Las Vegas, Feb. 2–6, 2009. If you haven't already signed up, be sure to visit www.worldofconcrete.com for the latest WOC information, including descriptions of seminars, exhibitors, and a number of unique concrete-related programs created specially by the industry's concrete experts.