Tonawanda News

January 17, 2013

NT businesses note uptick in orders from Asia

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — For years, United States manufacturing has plummeted as companies sought cheap labor and products overseas. 

But as emerging markets in Asia, and elsewhere, continue to grow, local companies are beginning to slowly reap the benefits. 

Miris Building Supply, a North Tonawanda wholesaler of construction material, recently shipped its first container full of wares to Singapore. The owner of the business, Michael Wachowicz, believes it is the first of many sales opportunities.

Wachowicz said for decades his company has imported less expensive products from abroad to its River Road and Orchard Park locations, where it employs 20 people and sells the supplies to U.S. companies and contractors, most of them in Western New York. 

“China is getting more expensive now so we buy more from South America,” he said. “It all goes through middle men. We sell to general contractors and other companies here.” 

But now, in what Wachowicz describes as a reversal of trends, bustling construction markets and strong economies in Asia are bringing growing opportunity for U.S. businesses, though imports still remain a crucial part of the his company’s portfolio, he said.

“We shipped out 13,000 feet of decking material to Singapore that’s made in America,” said George Meyer, the company’s general manager and an employee there for the last 35 years. “Basically 16 pallets of it. We filled the 20-foot container right up to the top. It all happened through a broker. The gentlemen from Singapore contacted us. We have a broker out of New Jersey who shipped it.”

Meyer said he’s seen a shift in the building supply industry over the years. First it was a move away from small, specialized shops once commonplace in the Twin Cities to big box stores. But he can see a chance for American companies to regain some of manufacturing dominance and sell back to the very countries that produce the bulk of its supplies.  

He and Wachowicz will travel to Las Vegas for a building supply convention next month, where he anticipates seeing more of a foreign presence than just a few years ago. Now with the confidence that more deals outside the country are possible, they are more open to seeking them out. 

Like Miris, Taylor Devices, another North Tonawanda company, is increasing its presence in Asia. The company had a record-breaking year in 2012, largely due to the sale of earthquake-related equipment and military supplies. And with a stagnant construction market carrying on in the United States, those sales may become the status quo. 

“Its a new venture,” Meyer said. “I’m sure it’s going to continue to be a part of the conversation and we’ll be open to those opportunities.” 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.