Focus on Fostoria - Jul_18_04

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Fostoria Focus - July 18, 2004

Forecast Shows Good Weather is Ahead
For Roppe Corp
By Leonard Skonecki

Don Gillett isn't a weather forecaster. But the president of the Roppe Corp. is optimistic about the economic climate for his company in the months ahead.

"We're excited to be where we are today," Don said.

The sluggish national economy resulted in a 12-14 percent decline in the commercial flooring business over the past two to three years. In that time, Roppe, on the other hand, was able to maintain sales at a constant level.

"I think we were doing very well compared to our competition," Don said.

But just maintaining sales is not in Roppe's scheme of things.

"Now that we've seen new construction starting to happen again, our sales for the past few months have been up nicely," Don said. "I see that continuing through the next year."

This is good news for the company, its 270 employees and the entire Fostoria community.

"We've been able to call everyone back that we had on layoff. We had people laid off since last fall," Don said. "It's always extremely hard to lay off people, but if there isn't work for them to do, you have to make those tough decisions.

"We've actually gotten everybody called back and hired approximately 35 college students for the summer," he said. "In addition to that, we hired another 10-15 temporary people to help us through our peak season."

The nationwide increase in new construction means the lines will be humming on North Union Street.

Roppe sells to two basic markets, the remodel and refurbishing market and the new construction market. Over the last two to three years the new construction market has been down. This is changing.

"Now we're selling, not just the remodel and refurbishment kind of jobs, but now there is a lot of new construction across the country," Don said.

Roppe sells its cove base (or mop board), stair tread and rubber floor tile for use in facilities like schools, hospitals, retirement homes, corporate office buildings, airports, etc.

"When we talk to contractors, architects and designers, their project horizon may extend out two and three years," Don said. "There were a lot of projects that were on hold that are now being started.

"Obviously, if you build a 50 story skyscraper somewhere, it takes a while for that project to be completed. So we see that there are new projects and that business will continue to be strong for the next couple years," he said.

Times change and Roppe intends to stay ahead of the game.

"We've also introduced a new product. We try to be good corporate citizens and supply the building industry with products that are renewable and/or recycled," he said.

"We have a new product that combines the quality aspects of rubber flooring and cork. We're actually incorporating cork into our rubber flooring," he said.

Roppe's new flooring and stair tread products contain 10 percent cork by volume. Cork is a renewable resource and it makes for a safer, more reliable product.

"It enhances the slip resistance of our product," said Don. "The wetter it gets the better it is which is typically the opposite of flooring material."

So far, sales of the new product are promising.

"It's being extremely well received in the market," Don said.


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