Editor’s Note: In May, Doug Carlton and Paul Godfrey presented a seminar at World of Concrete Asia, held in Beijing. Two 75-minute classes, titled “What’s New in Decorative Concrete,” showed off colorful pictures of stamping, staining, overlays, polishing, concrete countertops and vertical surfaces. Business owners and managers from all over the world attended the workshops.
Deep down, I was hoping the Great Wall of China was a poured-in-place concrete wall utilizing a crafty form liner. It’s not, but if it was constructed today I bet it would be. Anyway, you may be asking yourself what a presentation on decorative concrete in Beijing has to do with you and your business. Believe me, I asked myself the same thing several times during the 12-hour flight over. If you even noticed the “CONEXPO Asia” banners at the 2006 World of Concrete in Vegas, you probably never gave it a second thought. I personally thought the first-ever World of Concrete Asia had very little significance to the decorative concrete industry. I was wrong.
More than 75 countries were present with an attendance of more than 13,000 industry leaders during the four-day event. The thing that surprised me the most was the interest from other countries. Some attendees were very familiar with the decorative practices and projects performed by American contractors. Other countries inquired about basic decorative methods to help enter the market.
The Chinese are preparing to welcome the world to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Their existing concrete surfaces are well behind our decorative designs. What I can tell you about May 15 through 18 is that the seeds of the decorative concrete industry in China were sown. The fastest-growing economy in the world got a small taste of what the rest of the world has known for a long time: Decorative concrete is the best choice for hardscapes and high-traffic areas, bar none and pound for pound. The timelessness yet affordability of decorative concrete is no longer a secret across the world. For decorative concrete to enter the Chinese market is nothing more than a natural progression of a great industry.
The opportunities in China will be the same as all other countries, not only for contractors installing decorative concrete but for manufacturing, distribution, and training services. I believe education is key to insure the right product is used in the correct fashion to complete a successful decorative project. This is the case regardless of what country we’re talking about.
Shanghai and Hong Kong appear to be the most progressive of the major cities in China and will probably spearhead the decorative market. I believe the decorative road to China most likely will run through Europe. Interest will grow until the decorative market gains a strong foothold. Most of us have watched the same thing happen in the U.S. over the last 15 years.
Opportunities for American companies to help fill the market are a strong possibility. Tight control will be a must because of the distance as well as the replicating mindset of the Chinese culture. The Chinese are very good at duplicating products. It is doable because American corporations are popping up all over Asia.
There is no doubt that America is setting the standard for the decorative industry worldwide. Our methods and designs are shaping the industry. The educational opportunities we have from seminars, expos, magazines, and television are helping to develop solid and consistent decorative projects. Training has evolved from not just “how-to” to “what to do when something goes wrong.” I encourage you to take advantage of the great educational opportunities available today. Every year the World of Concrete in Vegas offers several three-hour decorative concrete sessions presented by industry leaders. These classes cost around a hundred bucks for a three-hour presentation and are worth every dime. To gain tips from the heavy hitters of the decorative concrete industry for less than $35 per hour is a bargain. If nothing else, staying away from the tables and slots for three hours may prove to be profitable.
For American contractors to continue to lead the decorative industry worldwide we must keep improving. Sharing successful practices and tips is good for the industry. None of us are as good as all of us. The last word on China and how it relates to the U.S. is this: During a couple of warm days in Beijing, Paul and I showed pictures of some of the best red, white, and blue decorative projects in existence. That is something we can all be proud of.