If ever there was a watershed year out west for economic recovery, 2013 fit the bill. That’s when the dead-in-the-water manufacturing industry began to rev up.
“In Colorado, everything started to come back in 2013,” says Tim Heaton, president of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Association. “Marijuana was [newly legal] and turning warehouses into grow houses. Advanced manufacturing was taking hold and old manufacturing cashed in.”
In Wichita, Kansas, Balco was reeling from a 50 percent slump in the construction industry, but had a strategy in place. “Still, it was down 35 percent,” says Steve Cooper, Balco’s vice president of business development and construction products. “But we were fortunate we’d developed an international business plan and changed our workforce so we didn’t have to lay people off.”
In Oklahoma City, Buildblock launched a steady roll that’s lasted five years. “Since then, we’ve doubled our amount of sales and production,” says Brian Corder, president. “Last year we were up 11 to 12 percent.”
At MP Global Products, a flooring underlayment manufacturer in Norfolk, Nebraska, new industry demanded growth. “The game has changed—it’s not just wood-based or laminate for the home,” says Deanna Summers, marketing coordinator. “Now it’s more vinyl-based, so the process has shifted to that. We have to reinvent ourselves.”
The future, however, still looks uncertain, given the specter of protectionism, which affects exports. And the dollar’s decline could create more uncertainty. “There’s growth potential on the production side, but I’m unsure how much investment companies are willing to make,” says Jeremy Hill, director for the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.
This much is certain: 2013 was a good year.