Steel analyst Josh Spoores told SPIDA that steel prices will drop in the near term, but eventually will be increasing.

SAN ANTONIO - The ductwork market will contract, although spiral is well positioned to grow its market share. But watch out for rising steel prices. Those were among the messages delivered at the 2011 Spiral Duct Manufacturers Association annual meeting here April 29-30.

This year’s gathering was a decidedly drier event than its 2010 affair. Unlike last year, when record rains hit Nashville, Tenn., and flooding shut down much of Music City near the end of the conference, the Texas weather generally cooperated April 29-30. It was hot and humid - typical for the season - but dry.

Under current association President Bill Stout, SPIDA has beefed up its technical program and now packs its schedule with educational seminars and issue discussions. This year, the group brought in an expert from the Army Crops of Engineers, a forecaster of steel prices and one of the most successful small-business owners in the country.

Greg Scheurich, the Army Corps’ sustainable engineering program manager in Fort Worth, Texas, started off the conference with an overview of the nation’s energy consumption.

“Everyone knows we are the largest oil-consuming country in the world,” he said, adding that of the countries the United States buys the most oil from - Venezuela, Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria - only Canada has a government that can be called stable.

Greg Scheurich of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Spiral Duct Association members April 29 that energy-efficiency initiatives are going to change the construction industry.

The end of oil?

Experts now predict that 2050 will be the year of peak world oil production, with a long, slow decline to follow. But the world’s population will continue to grow, and emerging economies such as China and India will ensure oil stays relatively expensive compared with its per-barrel price lows of the mid-1990s.

For anyone who believes alternative energies such as biomass power will be able to meet U.S. energy needs, Scheurich had bad news.

“Solar and wind are not the answers,” he said. “The only one I am really keen on is geothermal. To my way of thinking, geothermal really is the energy of the future.”

With geothermal power, the stable temperatures contained in the Earth’s soil are used to heat or cool a structure, providing a low-cost, energy-efficient option.

“On a lifecycle cost (basis), it is cheaper than coal,” he added.

But Scheurich reassured the spiral duct makers in attendance that even as building codes get more strict, “Ductwork is not going away. Spiral duct is not going away.”

That doesn’t mean the future will be easy.

“The duct market overall is going to contract considerably, but spiral duct’s market share is going to grow substantially,” he said.

Managing your time

Thirty-year-old Clay Clark is an author, the owner of several successful small businesses, a wedding disc jockey, sometime politician and the U.S. Small Business Association’s Entrepreneur of the Year. SPIDA hired the high-energy, fast-talking Oklahoma-based motivational speaker to explain the time-management secrets that allow him to run seven companies and be a husband and father to a family with five children.

Among his tips:

• You must determine to live before you die. Make time for family and friends.

• Time is your most important asset. Don’t waste it.

“If you’re talking in the office about fixing a printer that costs $95 to buy, just throw the printer away,” he said. “You can always make more money but you can’t make more time.”

•    Practice the 80-20 rule: 20 percent of what you do accounts for 80 percent of your results.

• Make to-do lists really effective.

• Consistently time block.

“Focus your time,” Clark said. “Nobody can call me after 5 p.m. And for me, that works well.”

• Work while you work. And don’t “work” when you’re not working.

• Get better at your key tasks.

• Study successful people and what they do.

• Avoid time wasters.

Clark said he has wasted too much time watching funny YouTube videos forwarded by friends. Now he saves them for after hours.

Steel update

The good news is the U.S. and world economies are recovering. The bad news is spiral duct manufacturers are likely to see steel prices increase, said Josh Spoores, the founder of Steel Reality who analyzes the flat-rolled steel market.

“A lot of the bad-case scenario is gone,” he said. “It’s on its way to getting better.”

But that means raw materials, including steel, are going to get more expensive, Spoores added.

“As the world uses more raw materials, we’re going to see it go up in price,” he said.

But for now, prices should fall a little - but not for long.

“Steel has a way to go down, but it’s not going to be a long dip,” he said.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail