From the Editor – Our economic indicators and inspirers

Posted on Oct 1, 2013 :: Editor , Editor’s Insights
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

The client and vendor lists at Sadoff Iron & Metal read like a who’s-who of the region’s premier manufacturers and foundries. A tour of the place gives the impression it’s the Grand Central Station for metal parts that come out of, and go back to, industries in the New North.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that Sadoff CEO Mark Lasky sees the metal recycling business as an industry with its pulse on the local, regional and even world economy.

“There used to be a saying in our industry that Alan Greenspan used the scrap industry as a leading indicator for economic indicators because we deal with such a broad swath of manufacturing,” Lasky said when I talked to him in his Fond du Lac headquarters. “And I think that’s pretty accurate.”

Oshkosh Corp., Mercury Marine, Marinette Marine, Waupaca Foundry, Neenah Foundry – you name it, the big hunks of used metal parts from these and hundreds of other companies make their way into any number of the nine facilities run by Sadoff, the state’s largest privately-owned metal recycler. These and many other companies buy the processed metal, which goes to 38 states – and 15 percent is exported to China, Mexico, Taiwan, India and Canada. From ferrous metals such as steel to non-ferrous metals such as aluminum and copper, it’s a commodities business, subject to economic forces.

“There is market sentiment and emotion, just like in the stock market, and that affects our business,” Lasky says.

Business is brisk at Sadoff, the subject of this month’s cover story, but due to these fickle market forces, the company expects the volume of metal it processes to be off by 12 percent this year. Sadoff President, CFO and COO Frank Villaire says that’s not bad, in light of how the large, publicly held recycling companies are doing. But they do see it as an indication that the economy is not fully healed from the Great Recession – and perhaps may be on a slight downward trend.

This seems to be reflected in this month’s “Trending” feature, which looks at market indicators in Northeast Wisconsin and nationally. (Click here to view data in digital magazine.)

“Overall economic growth is quite small compared to the debt we’ve created along the way,” says Mark Scheffler of The Appleton Group, whose company provides the data for Insight each month.

Could it be we’re still in an economic “winter?” That’s what Madison-based futurist, economist and author Rebecca Ryan calls this period, which she identifies as starting in 2001 and predicts may last until 2020. In her new book, “Regeneration, A Manifesto for America’s Next Leaders,” Ryan describes economic forces in America’s history that resulted in various “seasons,” with winter an economically challenging time – but also a time in which positive changes take root.

“What happens often in ‘winter’ is people get in a desperate place,” Ryan said in a phone interview. “Often, during ‘winter,’ the true regeneration does not come from the grass tops but from the grass roots.”

Intrigued? Ryan will speak on this subject in the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts’ Walter Theatre on the St. Norbert College campus. Click here for details.

Right up there with the state of the economy, health insurance is a topic heating up this month, as the Affordable Care Act launches its long-anticipated exchanges. Check out our roundtable discussion with industry experts for a little insight on what to expect.

There will be plenty of opportunities this month to get up to speed on the issue, and among them will be the first event of the St. Norbert College CEO Breakfast & Strategy Series. It kicks off Oct. 16 with Dan Schwartzer, deputy commissioner of insurance for the state of Wisconsin.

I encourage you to look in the center of this issue for the complete lineup of this year’s series, sponsored in part by Insight. And, as always, I hope to see you there!

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →