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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Curious about the people that live + or work in the Asheville, N.C. area. How has work been before the "recession" and how is it now? Are you noticing improvements? More so on the creative concrete end of things but in general building as well.
Thanks for your replies!

DPDT, Momentarily on
1,052 Posts
I live 25 miles north of Asheville and it is my major market area, although most of my work as of late has been from the Hendersonville area.

First let me state, I'm not a GC I fall under misc. metals supplier or misc metals sub, depending on who does the install on a given job. My specialty is ornamental iron. Stuff like handrails, gates, spiral stairs, metal stairs, balconies, etc.

Before the recession (while I was employed at 2 different shops for 10 years) it was a boom town around here. Most of the time my work was scheduled for a minimum 3 to 4 months ahead or more. That may not sound like much, but remember I am in a specialized trade where most jobs only last a couple of weeks, many last even less than that.

Since the recession began (right before I got it together and opened my own shop:shutup:) it has really slowed down. From what I hear, however, we don't have it as bad as some places. Some builders I know attribute that to a couple of factors. Housing prices didn't get crazy high so they didn't plummet as far as some markets.(their idea of crazy high and mine are a little different) There's a lot of second/vacation home building and buying that goes on and (allegedly) those folks still have money to spend.

I'll use one of the shops I was employed at for an example. Pre-recession, structural steel was their mainstay. 2 or 3 fabricators stayed very busy just making beams and columns and related structural steel. At the same time while I was running the ornamental side of things we had at least 2 (sometimes 3 or 4) fabricators staying very busy. Metal stairs usually fell to 1 or 2 fabricators who weren't as covered up as us structural and ornamental guys, but they stayed covered up with lots of odd jobs to fill the gaps between stair jobs. Stuff like excavator thumbs, re-skinning dump truck beds, h3ll one our guys was even getting some cool stuff like raking Harley frames for the local H-D dealer.

So any where from 5 to 7 fabricators and our helpers (while I was with them, they had up to 15 in the past) were turning out somewhere's north of 125k monthly.

Today that same shop is down to 1 full time fabricator, and calls a couple of their guys back from layoff when they get enough work. Commercial structural steel is almost stopped. They are staying afloat with misc./ornamental stuff.

They're not newbies, either. They have been around since before the depression. Times are tough but they're optimistic. I'd really hate to see them go (I'm just talking here, I have no inside info) because they really are part of the building trades history in this region, and some really good folks, too.

You'd think I must be a moron to open my own shop in this climate, but I did a lot of research before taking the plunge. There are several factors that kept me going.

1- Mine is a specialized trade, there aren't many shops that do the type of work I do around here.
2- Even in the slow times the builders who focus on quality are staying busy, and my shop focuses on quality.
3- Of the shops in this area that do similar work only 1 or 2 are experienced in really high end metals. Stuff like hand forged custom blacksmith work.
4- While this area is known for being saturated with blacksmiths, most focus on the artistic side of things. I tend to fill the gap between the "artist" blacksmiths and the "regular" fab shops.
5- Even though the shop I used as an example is slow there are others that I've kept in touch with (It's a small community and most of us know or at least know of each other) are staying busy. Maybe not wide open, but busy. Also note what that example shop is keeping busy with, ornamental and misc. metal.
6- Even though my bread and butter work is construction related, it is not limited to that. If it's made of metal, and I have the resources to profitably do a job, I'll take it. (One surprise is barbecue smokers, I'm getting quite a few jobs related to them)

Of course my place has only been organized since January '09, and production ready in March. So it remains to be seen if I'm an idiot or not. I'll say this, though, every month my phone rings a little more. We're keeping well ahead of the bill collectors, even being the new guy that no one has heard of, yet.

What ever you do, do well.
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