If someone had told you at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic would wreak havoc on the American economy and impact every industry in some way, shape, or form … would you have believed it? How have companies in the construction sector fared with the “new normal?” Here’s what Mike Toohey, general manager of The Bilco Company, shares in five questions.

What have you seen in your business since the start of the pandemic? 

TOOHEY: Very strong start to year and then the bottom fell out mid-March. Began to see improvement in May, led by our residential products. The number of orders received never really declined, just the quantity of products on those orders. Our distribution partners continued to order but were keeping inventories at a minimum.

Have you seen some parts of the country rebounding faster than others? Can you go into more detail about that? 

TOOHEY: Business has been fragmented geographically. Sales on the West Coast and in the South have been strong. Not sure how the recent flare-ups of COVID-19 in those regions will impact things going forward. The Upper Midwest and New England have been improving; Pennsylvania and Massachusetts seem to be rebounding after being one of the states hardest hit by shutdowns. 

It seems like things are slowly getting back to some level of normalcy. What do you expect to see in the next 6 months? In the next 18 months?

TOOHEY: I think Q3 will be solid due to pent up demand and taper off a bit in Q4. Various projections show construction slowly improving into 2021 but the impact of the pandemic this summer and fall is a great wild card. I’m also concerned about projects that were deferred due to COVID-19. I think some of those are just going to go away.

Are certain sectors of construction—i.e., hospitals, commercial buildings, schools—seeing a more rapid rebound than others? 

TOOHEY: Education and infrastructure seem to be very busy. The summer historically is the busiest time in our business for school construction and everyone is operating, and has to, on the premise that kids will be back in school in the fall. A lot of funding was already in place for water and waste treatment construction and these projects are also proceeding at a steady clip.

I think it’s fair to say the pandemic caught everybody with their guard down. What are your key takeaways from the pandemic, and what processes do you think will change in the building and construction industry as we move forward? 

TOOHEY: I think everyone has learned to operate remotely and found that, for the most part, it can be done quite successfully. Safety has always been critical in the construction industry, and I think the pandemic has only heightened this. Everyone seems refocused on the importance of PPE and other safety protocols to protect employees. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the shift to working remotely has on commercial construction. Over the next several years, we will likely see many organizations downsize their office footprint to reflect having fewer people on site. 

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Mike Toohey has been with The BILCO Company for 32 years and started on the residential side of the business. For the last 27 years, Mike has worked on the commercial/architectural side of the company, most recently as director of architectural sales & marketing. In his new position, Mike will now oversee sales and marketing, operations, and engineering for BILCO architectural and residential products. 

Modern Contractor Solutions, August 2020
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