Message From Milan

I was in Milan on April 2 for a special press event when the G20 economic summit ended in London. The hosts of the press event, officials of GIMAV and Vitrum, had followed the meeting closely because of its probable impact on their businesses and that of their members.  (GIMAV is the Italian association of equipment suppliers for architectural glass and metal fabricators and Vitrum is an every-other-year trade show for that industry held in Milan.) Much of what they had to say is now familiar: I’ve never seen anything like this; everyone is afraid to spend money, etc.
However, because their customer base in international, they brought a global perspective to their evaluation.

The architectural and architectural glass and metal communities are intertwined. You design buildings to be built and our materials are used in that construction. But if no one is building buildings then there is no use of glass and metal for construction.
That’s why I wanted to let you know what I heard in Milan.

Dino Fenzi, president of Vitrum and head of the family owned company that supplies materials to manufacturers, said that the actions taken at the G20 meeting were good for emerging markets. “It’s important to get people working and not have social issues,” he said, referring to the street demonstrations in France and Germany.

“For 50 years, I’ve always believed that my success was part of the industry’s success,” he explained. “But now I realize it may depend on the U.S. Congress or the G20. Business is directly related to what is happening in the rooms where the world economy is being decided.”

Fenzi, who is also a past president of GIMAV, said that none of the group’s members have lost customers, “but the order books are empty. We have not lost market share, but the market has become smaller. The cake is smaller than it has been for 50 years. We hope recovery will be soon.”

He said his company has had only two years when sales declined from the previous year. “That was in 1990 and 1998, and those were single digit drops,” he said. “For the first time in 50 years, we don’t know what is going to happen.”

Commenting on the current global market, Cinzia Schiatti, who heads up foreign sales for her family owned company and is the current president of GIMAV, said, “Always before if it was slow in the U.S., we could find prosperity some place else. But not now.”

Fenzi added, “Some large, international companies have frozen their acquisition decisions because of board policy, and that has made a problem, but still that will come back. Solutions will be found and the economy will run again.”

We all share that hope.