Like many contractors stung by the recession bug, Al Luchterhand is scratching around for new ways to apply his firm’s people and skills. “We’re looking to move into infrastructure,” says the co-owner of Las Vegas-based Sun City Landscapes Inc. “It is what it is,” he says. “You’ve got to adjust.” Speaking at a quiet residential development along with Caterpillar Inc. officials in Henderson, Nevada, on Feb. 2, Luchterhand echoed what was heard on the other side of town at the annual World of Concrete show, held on Feb. 3-6. The landscaper mirrors its Peoria, Ill.-based supplier but on a much smaller scale. Last month, Cat slashed more than 22,000 jobs, and on Feb. 6, Chairman Jim Owens was named an economic adviser to President Obama. In contrast, Sun City has cut its payroll to 100 workers, a 79% reduction in force, and liquidated 50% of its fleet, leaving the owners dazed. “When you spend 18 years building a company and you have to dismantle it in a year and a half, it is depressing,” said Sun City co-owner Louis Polish Jr.
On the concrete show’s first day, attendees slowly wandered in, but by the end of the week, 65,287 had pounded the pavement—23% less than last year, according to officials with show owner Hanley Wood Exhibitions. “Obviously, we would have loved to have more attendees, but most of the exhibitors I talked to thought the quality was certainly there,” said show director Tom Cindric. “There aren’t as many tire-kickers,” noted Rob Foster, spokesman for Mt. Prospect, Ill.-based Bosch Power Tools. Despite the drop in turnout, total exhibit space was down only 2%, at 880,000 sq ft.