PITTSBURGH - Like most U.S. businesses, the polyurethane industry is experiencing solid growth in 1995, which should continue through 1996, PU product manufacturers said. Richard J. Gallagher Jr., president of Gallagher Corp. in Gur-nee, Ill., credits sales increases to a stronger U.S. economy and a slowdown in new regulations concerning the material.
Urethane demand has been strong and is growing, and business in the Rust Belt has been especially good, said Gallagher at the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association fall meeting, held Nov. 4-8 in Pittsburgh.
``I don't see many negative things now,'' he said.
Gary E. Willig, president of Parkway Products Inc., and Dick Davidson, president of Thom-bert Inc. - also attending the PMA meeting - agreed with Gallagher.
The business climate the past two years has been good, Davidson said. Plus, Newton, Iowa-based Thombert, which primarily molds wheels and tires for forklift trucks, has been helped by improvements in the capital goods business, its main market, he said.
The biggest indicator of growth has been the inadequate supply of raw materials for manufacturing PU products, according to Davidson. However, the low supply has boosted prices.
``The volumes are good, but it's been challenging to be as profitable as people like because of raw material prices,'' he said.
In response, many suppliers are debottlenecking their plants or opening new facilities in 1996-97.
Another spark to the industry has been the lack of new regulations, Gallagher said. He said the lack of new regulations does not lead to new business, but it is less discouraging to manufacturers, he said.
``It seems quiet on the front on the MOCA issue,'' Willig said, referring to the controversial curing agent methylene bis-4/4'-orthochloroaniline that was classified as a carcinogen in the 1970s.
However, Willig still believes there are enough federal and state regulations taking effect in coming years to keep companies overoccupied.
The Parkway president said his company in Cincinnati must keep in touch with PMA lawyer Donald Gallo, an expert on regulatory compliance, to keep up with all the laws.
Davidson added that recycling legislation could hurt companies in the long run if they are forced to recycle scrap PU. Currently, the Thombert president does not know any firms with the capability to recycle urethane.
However, the future seems bright for PU, the officials said. In fact, it is tough enough keeping up with demand in the United States, so tough that the three firms have not really explored the overseas market yet.