From left, MwDA President Dave Poteete (M. Cooper Supply Co.) and President-Elect Steve Walsh (Columbia Pipe & Supply Co.) at the association’s 2013 annual meeting and dinner in suburban Chicago. Photo courtesy of American Supply Association.


It’s like the sign in certain bars announcing, “Free Beer Tomorrow.” Almost as whimsically, economists keep predicting a strong recovery in the last half of the coming year.

“The recovery keeps getting pushed back,” said Michael Halloran, senior research analyst for process controls with R.W. Baird Co., keynote speaker at the Midwest Distributors Association’s 2013 Annual Meeting & Dinner at football legend Mike Ditka’s suburban Chicago restaurant in Oak Brook Terrace. He told the packed audience to expect only a “slight acceleration of growth” in 2014.

On the bright side, Halloran pointed to encouraging data from the Architectural Billings Index, which has been accelerating since this past summer. The ABI is a leading indicator of commercial market performance six to nine months in the future. He also predicted, “Pretty healthy growth on the residential side over the next three to four years,” although in this context, “healthy” is a relative term. In response to a question from the audience, Halloran ventured it would take about that long for housing starts to return to the 1.5-1.6 million units level that used to be considered an average year.

“In general, industrial growth will be soft,” Halloran said, citing sluggish demand in China and worldwide, low levels of capacity utilization as well as lack of political will in America to fund sorely needed infrastructure improvements. In his assessment, the normal business cycle has been skewed by uncertainty that has caused corporate America to use healthy balance sheets more for mergers and acquisitions than capital investment.

The event concluded with the members electing the slate of officers and directors for 2014.  Dave Poteete from M. Cooper Supply Co. in Mokena, Ill., is the new president; President-Elect is Steve Walsh from Columbia Pipe & Supply in Chicago; Treasurer is Todd Restel from First Supply in La Crosse, Wis. At-large directors serving on the Board are John Bennerotte from BMA in Plymouth, Minn.; Ryan Curry from Connor Co. in Peoria, Ill.; Michael Dore from R.C. Sales & Service in Downers Grove, Ill.; Randy Grebel from Bemis Mfg.; Monica Moore from InSinkErator; David Riggs from Plumbers Supply in St. Louis, Mo.; Greg Servais from Dakota Supply Group in La Crosse, Wis. Outgoing President Tim Milford from Milford Supply Co. in St. Louis, Mo., and Rebecca Falish from InSinkErator also were recognized for their stewardship on behalf of the industry after having concluded their terms of service in the organization.                                                

–Jim Olstzynski (Special to MdWA)