Viniello: 'Consider resi market'

Thursday, June 1, 2006

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda--In his State of the Industry address at the National Fire Sprinkler Association annual seminar, which took place here April 26-29, John Viniello, NFSA president, issued a sunny forecast, saying that now is the time for contractors to delve into new markets, including the residential market.
"The sprinkler industry has had a remarkable run over the past 24 months," surpassing expectations of "even the most optimistic economic prognosticators," Viniello said.
In 2005, a record number of sprinklers were shipped, 46 million in North America. "This year, we will break 50 million shipped," he said. Judging by the first quarter, that number may be much higher.
Viniello noted that residential sprinkler mandates are common now in some areas of the country, such as California and Illinois, but they will be common everywhere in the future.
"New markets are looming large; sprinklers for single family homes will be a significant market for those who elect to participate," he said.
He noted that manufacturers have "launched individual company initiatives that will help drive this market, as we've never seen before."
After the speech, Bob Brinkman, president of Tyco Fire and Building Products, noted his company's introduction of the Rapid Response line of sprinkler products for homes. Along with the product, the company initiated a campaign to "educate homebuilders, the fire industry and the general public about residential sprinklers."
On April 28, Greg Huennekens and Jamie Reap of U.S. Fire Protection Illinois led a lively working session about the advantages of establishing a residential sprinkler division. Huennekens' company entered the residential market in 1988. "Our company does $60 to $65 million a year and residential is about $16 million, that's 25 percent of our sales." He said the last couple of years had not been great for the commercial side and the residential business "helped in lean years."
He pointed to workshop attendee Fred Kroll of Alliance Fire Protection, also in Illinois. "We convinced Fred, at our sister company, to enter the residential market three years ago. Thirty percent of their $30 million in business now comes from the residential market," he said.
"We're competitors in the same market, but we're owned by the same company, API," Kroll said. "And there's enough work to go around."Huennekens conceded that his market has residential sprinkler mandates, while many contractors came from regions that do not. He predicted that the mandates would be coming to the rest of the country and advised the contractors to "get ready."