The American Supply Association’s annual NETWORK event always is a treasure-trove of educational and networking opportunities.

And one of the most anticipated sessions during the industry’s can’t-miss event is the industry economic forecast, which this year was delivered by Armada Corporate Intelligence Managing Director Dr. Chris Kuehl during NETWORK2019, which celebrated ASA’s 50th anniversary at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.

So what is Kuehl predicting for PHCP-PVF industry stakeholders in 2020?

“The overall sense is growth will be slowing to a more ‘traditional’ level between 1.8% to 2.1%,” he said. “The third-quarter numbers will be coming in (just as this issue went to print) and they are expected to be around 1.6%. The housing sector has been slowing, and that has been no shock — home prices are slightly elevated in most markets and mortgage rates are up slightly.”

Kuehl did have a bit of good news about the forecast. “The good news is it isn’t close to collapse,” he said. “The big threat is slowing global growth and the impact of tariffs and trade wars. Some of that has hit this industry, but in some cases the tariffs have helped level the competitive playing field.”

Kuehl added election years “also tend to depress customers,” he said, “and this year may be more intense than usual.”

In terms of the industrial PVF sector of the industry, Kuehl said the big issue as far as oil and gas has been demand. “It has been generally subdued as the global economy has struggled,” he noted. “China has slowed to a 30-year low and much of Europe is in recession. The fact that oil prices barely reacted to the attack on the Saudi facilities is a sure sign that demand is the key driver and there is no reason to expect a sharp recovery. Oil development in the U.S. has started to slow in response, and also because it has become a little more expensive to get that shale oil.”

Kuehl’s advice to a PHCP-PVF distributor heading into 2020? “The growth that is on tap is what I refer to as ‘unforgiving growth,’” he said. “When the overall economy is bouncing around at 3% and above, it is easier to take risks because there is enough overall expansion to cover mistakes and miscues. At 2% and below there is not much give, and companies start to get a lot more cautious. The industrial sector is not likely to retreat as it would in a recessionary environment, but it will be careful and less likely to take expansionary risks.”


On the hill

NETWORK2019 kept attendees plenty busy with many activities, including ASA members heading to Capitol Hill to talk to their elected officials.

ASA members were on the Hill advocating for legislation such as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, which would extend Pell Grant funding to short, job-focused community college education and training, which means that Pell grants would now be available to students looking to go into the skilled trades.

Also, the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act promotes industry partnerships made up of local businesses and industry organizations, workforce boards, and education and training providers to support workforce training programs in targeted infrastructure industries.

Members also came together to advocate for CTE programs and apprenticeships in any upcoming infrastructure bill.

During the annual Industrial Piping Division breakfast, ASA honored industrial PVF veteran Gerry Slattery (Merfish Pipe & Supply) with the 2019 ASA Industrial Piping Division Award of Excellence for his longtime service in the industry and on the IPD board. For more on Slattery, visit and the December print edition of Supply House Times.

ASA celebrated its 50th anniversary in grand fashion with a blowout gala at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington.

ASA’s NETWORK returns to Chicago Oct. 7-9, 2020, at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park.