Cross your fingers and hope the bottom is behind us

Aug 01, 2009 | 05:28 AM |

The thrill is in the challenge. Well perhaps not always, but challenge is certainly what steel conduit suppliers face through at least next year. Yet despite the double whammy of a construction lull and the impact the financial crisis has had on business in the sector, there is hope that the worst is over.

"I think that we and other established producers will be fine, but I don't know if the same is true for anyone else trying to enter the market. It will be a very lean and very challenging few years," said Todd Walrod, vice president of sales and marketing at Louisville, Ky.-based Republic Conduit, one of only four major U.S. steel conduit suppliers. The other three major conduit mills are Allied Tube & Conduit Corp., Harvey, Ill.; Western Tube & Conduit Corp., Long Beach, Calif.; and Wheatland Tube Co., Wheatland Pa.

Calling demand "awful at best," having fallen 30 to 40 percent in most markets since the financial crisis hit last fall, one industry executive likened it to a teeter-totter. "Every day is a new day. For a few days it seems to be encouraging, but then it starts to fall off again. I believe the money is out there, but people are afraid to spend it."....

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