Monthly Archives: February 2011

$16.98

Blame it on my mother, who spent her teens and early 20s in the Great Depression, and then managed a family of six on a blue-collar guy’s wages: I grew up well-schooled in the notions of value.

In other words, I can be cheap. Very cheap.

320_LVbreakfastSometimes, the price of every little thing gets too steep and reduces the value of the sum of the experience. That’s where the headline comes in, as it sums up my feeling about a place that’s becoming the U.S. stone-show capital: Las Vegas.

The sum quoted at the top bought breakfast for two at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand within the Luxor Hotel during StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas last month. And, for that, the serving tray groaned with:

• 2 bagels with a small serving of cream cheese;
• 2 small bottles of juice;
• 1 “regular” coffee.

The serving area – the upstairs food court – offered a dark corner of the pyramid, where at least we weren’t charged for the privilege of seating. (I suppose that the birds flying around the indoor area to snatch up any stray morsels could be considered entertainment thrown in for free.) Since this was self-service, we didn’t need to leave a tip, so we “got away” with a bagel, some juice and a bit of coffee for $8.50 each.

I’m not complaining because I’m cheap. I’m sounding off because this is indicative of why, when it comes to shows for the stone trade, Vegas is a place that’s worn out its usefulness.

Unfortunately, when it comes to exhibitions, Las Vegas is one of the most-convenient places for organization and production. Convention centers and hotel ballrooms can accommodate any size of event, with a nice hotel attached. Major companies specializing in decoration – the term for setting up the booths, carpets and services needed for a show – have major operations in Las Vegas.

As someone attending a show, however, Las Vegas doesn’t have a lot to offer, unless you revel in consuming overpriced food and drink and staying in hotels that are quickly becoming shopworn. Nearly every major U.S. metropolitan area has casino gambling – formerly an exclusive draw for Vegas –  within a two-hour drive. High-class entertainment is pretty much down to gilded gymnastics galas and attitude-driven magicians who easily make two Franklins disappear for an 85-minute show.

Yeah, I can hear the basic answer of, “It’s Vegas, baby! Suck it up!” So here’s the response: You paying your own ticket, buddy? Or is somebody else sucking up that expense account?

Las Vegas is a series of resorts-cum-biospheres, where the designs discourage walking out of them (unless you have a lot of time and like having cheap escort flyers shoved in your face) and you’re treated like a captive audience within the boundaries. Add in the incredibly bad traffic that discourages getting in a car, and you’re often stuck with that $16.98 breakfast – and other eating/lodging compromises – being your best option. That’s no value by any measurement.

There’s also the argument of location. Sure, it’s not too hard to find a flight to Las Vegas, but that’s also assuming that the masses of stone fabricators and installers out there have the time and the cash to hop a plane at least halfway across the country – and then ask them to do it again and again. Driving there is not an option, unless you happen to be working Phoenix or Los Angeles (a place where it’s difficult to get people to drive 40 miles for a show, let alone several hundred).

Frankly, many of the same arguments can be made for Orlando, Fla. With both places, the location adds absolutely nothing to the effectiveness of the event, as far as attendees are concerned. And the idea of doing the ol’ show-vacation combo is a tired-and-tattered fantasy of visitor bureaus and travel agents that needs a final retirement.

There’s a vast part of the country being underserved for a blue-collar (or, since a T-shirt is the garment of choice, no-collar) trade that would relish going to a place within a half-day’s drive where it’s feasible to take several folks from the shop, and the predominant customer service by hotels and restaurants isn’t attaching a vacuum cleaner to your wallet.

Take Collinsville, Ill., where the Stone Fabricators Alliance (SFA) runs its Megaworkshop. It’s not glamorous; you don’t have celebrity-name steakhouses and go-go dancers working a runway between the blackjack tables. You do get a place where thousands of fabricators and installers live within 400 miles, with a major city 15 miles away and a bunch of lodging within walking distance.

And, a Jackson buys a heckuva breakfast for two, tip included.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

Get the best in insightful and informed coverage of the stone industry every month with Stone Business magazine. Sign up for a free subscription (or renew your current account) and don’t miss a single issue – just click here.

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Granite makes big gains in 2010 U.S. imports

With initial reports in from the U.S. International Trade Commission on December 2010 imports, it’s possible to take a preliminary look at last year’s traffic in dimensional stone.

The following is an exclusive Stone Business analysis of data released Feb. 10, 2011, by  the U.S. International Trade Commission. “Worked” stone is material that’s been shorn from boulders and blocks, and then cut in standard dimensional measures (such as slabs and tiles) and polished (at least once).

With worked granite, the $956.8 million in 2010 customs values shows a 24.1-percent increase from 2009’s $770.1 million. It’s still far away, however, from the peak year of 2006 and its $1.53 billion.

Brazil topped the charts in 2010 worked granite value at $413.9 million, making a  45.3-percent recovery from the previous year. China placed second at $215.7 million with an ever-so-slight decline from 2009 of 0.3 percent; India moved ahead of Italy into third, as the countries posted $134.8 million  (+35 percent) and $121.2 million (+15.3 percent), last year, respectively.

In volume, the 1.61-million metric tons of worked granite brought to the United States last year marked a 43.4-percent increase from 2009. While that came close to 2008’s 1.71 million metric tons, it’s still far from the record mark of 2.63-million metric tons in 2006.

Brazil also held a commanding top position in 2010 U.S. granite imports by volume, with its 677,857 metric tons representing a 52.8-percent rise from 2009. China remained in second place with 367,600 metric tons – a 22-percent increase from 2009 – while India raised its U.S. presence by 62 percent to 316,957 metric tons last year.

Worked marble didn’t fare as well in 2010; the $189.3 million in customs value represented a slight 2.6-percent decline from 2009, caused mainly by lower totals from Italy and Greece. And it’s a long ways from the top of the market in 2007, with total U.S. import values of $318.6 million.

In volume, however, worked marble turned around, with the 169,831 metric tons for 2010 showing a 1.6-percent increase from the previous year. China kept the #1 position it gained in 2009 in marble tonnage, with its 55,341 metric tons outweighing Italy’s 45,291 metric tons. Of the four U.S. trade partners – China, Italy, Turkey and Spain – shipping more than 10,000 metric tons of worked marble, all showed increases from 2009.

U.S. imports in travertine also experienced small gains for 2010; the $247.3 million in value made for a 1.1-percent increase from 2009, while the 457,610 metric tons shipped marked a 7.4-percent improvement. Much of this came as Turkey ramped up production; its 347,150 metric tons last year yielded a 12.1-percent growth from 2009.

For other calcareous stone, 2010 will be the year of Lebanon’s vanishing act. Import values fell by 21.8 percent from 2009 totals to settle at $90.8 million, while volume plummeted by a staggering 47.7 percent to 348,284 metric tons, as the Mideast country disappeared from the import market after last May.

The catch-all category of other stone managed some good news with its mixed haul; the 2010 U.S. import values of $223 million marked a 9.3 percent gain, with Brazil repeating its #1 performance with $72.9 million (up 22.5 percent from 2009). Other stone volume through U.S. ports-of-entry increased by 14.4 percent in 2010 to 281,851 metric tons, with Brazil taking the top spot with 100,173 metric tons.

Slate, meanwhile, puttered along in 2010 to post U.S. import values of $56.7 million – down a mere 0.8 percent from the previous year. Import leaders China ($23.8 million) and India ($22.4 million) suffered declines in 2010; Brazil, farther back at $4.6 million, nevertheless recovered by 15.9 percent from a disastrous 2009.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

Get the best in insightful and informed coverage of the stone industry every month with Stone Business magazine. Sign up for a free subscription (or renew your current account) and don’t miss a single issue – just click here.

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online, where you can also find this blog at the Main Menu at the button cleverly titled “Blogs.”

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by wordpress.com, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from them, either.

So you want to teach at StonExpo?

If you’d like to share your knowledge with other in the stone industry, StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas is a great place – and you can be part of that experience next January.

Hanley Wood, the owner/producer of StonExpo, is seeking speakers for StonExpo 2012. These sessions generate discussion and ideas, find solutions and provide motivation to attendees to succeed; they’re looking for people to help meet those goals.

Think you have something that can benefit others in the stone industry? Hanley Wood is making the submission process a bit easier; you can do it with an online submissions form that you can find here.

Just don’t delay in getting your act – and your ideas – together. The deadline is March 11.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

Get the best in insightful and informed coverage of the stone industry every month with Stone Business magazine. Sign up for a free subscription (or renew your current account) and don’t miss a single issue – just click here.

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online, where you can also find this blog at the Main Menu at the button cleverly titled “Blogs.”

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by wordpress.com, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from them, either.