As we head into convention, I have conflicting emotions. On one hand, I am excited to see everyone at SMACNA’s Annual Convention at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a great venue to bring everyone together and offer a full educational program again. On the other hand, I am sad to see my tenure as SMACNA’s president come to a close. It has all flown by so quickly.
This has been one of the most turbulent years ever for me, both personally and professionally. Slowly losing my father-in-law, Bob Lawless, was agony, especially when he used to run the company I now own. Our family misses him every day.
As we like to say, “Family first.” I think it is a motto we all live by to some degree. I like to think of SMACNA as an extended family — one with similar values and certainly similar work environments. We are all entrepreneurs responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods. It’s not for the weak of heart, but it can be really gratifying at the same time.
Because a lot of my work is in New York City, I feel there is a certain uniqueness to it. The hustle required to get work in the city couldn’t be more overwhelming. We have tons of bids out there. Some of the pipeline projects are delayed, and many bids we lose based on price.
It can be a little nerve-racking. We see consolidation happening in the market where the big are getting bigger and using economies of scale and technology to increase efficiency. For someone like me, with nearly 80 people in my business, I definitely feel market pressure, but we have some market strengths and customers that are keeping us busy.
Bright spots on the horizon are a lot of federal projects and infrastructure deals. People are gradually coming back into the city, and driving is intolerable so the trains are getting used much more. Also, the supply chain issues appear to be less of a factor.
Across the country, we are hearing similar things from big metropolitan markets, but it is a much brighter story when you get outside the cities.
There, companies have full pipelines of business where jobs can't get finished fast enough, and worker shortages are a reality.
One of the key takeaways I've had as president is understanding the varied experiences members have in different parts of the country and in different sectors. We really are a diverse industry, although we feel like an extended family. See you at the convention!
Sincerely, Al LaBella, SMACNA President