As sheet metal contractors, I'll bet almost all of you have probably been affected by the rising price of steel.

The headlines are hard to ignore: "Steel cost hikes rattle consumers," "Steel Prices soar 66 percent in a world market ‘gone mad' " and "Steel prices rise - again."

Contractors, equipment manufacturers and suppliers are all feeling the pain, with steel costs recently rising as much as 40 percent in some parts of the United States.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Last fall, when President Bush decided to lift the 2-year-old tariffs on imported steel, imposed at the request of U.S. steelmakers, manufacturers in the many industries that consume steel hoped it would lower the cost of doing business.

Instead, prices just kept on rising. According to Sheffield, England-based steel industry consultants Meps International Ltd., as of early March, the U.S. price of a ton of hot-rolled steel was more than $400, almost $100 above what it cost in June 2003, and many experts expect the elevated prices to stay.

While that's good news for the profits of the beleaguered U.S. steel industry, which has suffered thousands of layoffs and numerous plant shutdowns in recent years, for most other sectors of the construction industry, it's making a tough economic situation even more difficult.

Many contractors are complaining. Members of the Spiral Duct Manufacturers Association discussed the high price of steel during its January membership meeting in Anaheim, Calif. For those of you who visit www.snipsmag.com, our magazine's Web site, you'll see steel prices have also been a recent topic of conversation on our bulletin board.

I'm hoping to put together a story on this timely subject for a future issue. Tell me how steel prices have affected your business and what you're doing about it. Write me at SNIPS magazine, BNP Media, 2401 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 700, Troy, MI 48084. You can also send an e-mail to mcconnellm@bnpmedia.com. Please include your name, address, phone number and how long you've been in the sheet metal or HVAC industry. Responses may be published in a future issue.

Letters

Some thoughts on expo attendance

During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the AHR Expo was a four-day event. It ran from Monday through Thursday. Within the last 25 years or so, show management made the decision to reduce it to a three-day show.

The show draws well in Chicago. Why? It is centrally located. It draws visitors from the Midwest and Northern states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota as well as Canada and the East Coast.

The scenario changes when the show moves to Anaheim, Calif. The East Coast, Northeast Coast, Southeast Coast, will not go because of the financial cost to attend. It's the same scenario when the show is moved to Atlanta. The show draws heavy East Coast residents. It will not draw West Coast.

The last AHR Expo I attended was in Chicago in 1995. The show caters to visitors selling new equipment. It does not cater to contractors offering antique furnace repair services, as I do.

Donald J. Sochurek

Retired owner

Allis Heating Inc.

Muskego, Wis.