CEOs Talk About Their 2015 Outlook

As they head into 2015, U.S.-based CEOs wonder if the economic glass is half-empty or half-full both in the United States and around the world. And for the first time since the Great Recession, their collective expectations for the New Year tip toward steady growth and a smoother path for doing business despite lingering questions about the strength of economic recovery.

Jay-GouldHousing-Driven, Credit-Wary
Jay Gould, CEO, American Standard Brands

We’re anticipating growth of about 9 to 10 percent next year, about two times the industry growth rate, so we’ll be getting market share. We’ve got expanded availability of products and a broader relationship with [wholesaler] Ferguson, which provides higher margins than our big-box retailers. Plus, we have two innovations that will be hitting the market over the next several months that I can’t talk about right now.

The industry will be mostly driven by continued increases in home prices. That curve seems to have flattened, but the most recent data suggests an 8-percent year-to-year increase [in 2014] in the top 20 metro markets, and that bodes well. The limiting factor is credit conditions; consumers’ ability to qualify for mortgages is still a real challenge.

We’re looking at 2.5- to 3-percent GDP growth next year with liftoff as early as mid-year. And we’re not expecting the weather-related challenges in the first quarter that we had in the 2014 first quarter, which alone would be a four-point swing in GDP.

Embedded in this [projection] is the expectation that the world political scene will remain unsettled. There could be short-term shocks, but our forecast can’t anticipate that. Based in Piscataway, New Jersey, the company manufactures bath and kitchen products and had 2013 revenues of $1.1 billion.

David-GouldenDemand for Transformative IT
David Goulden, CEO, EMC Information Infrastructure

The way businesses and consumers use information technology is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation. Companies and governments have huge investments in existing technologies. But they also need to adopt newer  technologies to stay relevant in this new era. So, they look to partner with technology providers who can help them run existing technologies more efficiently in order to free-up resources to invest in newer [solutions] to become more competitive.

Within the IT industry globally, enterprise spending on IT has lagged worldwide GDP growth for the last couple [of] years. This may be a first for a non-recessionary economic environment in my 30-plus-year career in technology. What makes me hopeful that this will change is the pace of new technologies that are coming to market and enjoying rapid adoption by early movers, who set the direction that others eventually follow.

I’m most concerned about geopolitical stability at the global level and political paralysis in Washington. The biggest drag on corporate capital investment is uncertainty about the future. We live in a world and an era that yearns for calm, pragmatic leadership to inspire confidence and investment in the future.

Headquartered in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the company provides data storage, security and other IT services and is the largest part of EMC, which had 2013 revenues of $23.2 billion.

David-HannahGetting the Itch to Build
David Hannah, CEO, Reliance Steel & Aluminum

Next year will be better than this year. We’re still in catch-up mode because so much of our business is non-residential construction—bridges, poles, water works, energy infrastructure and so on. It’s the laggard in terms of recovery from the 2009 recession. We’re still a good 20 percent off what we think “normal” should be in this area.

This year, we’ve actually started to see steel mills, our suppliers, talking more about big projects, which means that companies are having some confidence in business to invest in major projects out into the future. There have been a few attempts at that kind of recovery before, but they’ve always been sidetracked.

The U.S. industrial economy has been recovering since 2010 but plodding along at a very slow pace. If we can get some more bright spots like the auto industry, the economy should improve next year over this year.

My one concern is some crazy event that causes uncertainty. It could be related to what’s going on in the Middle East or something [that] happens here at home or our politicians create some mess that creates uncertainty going forward.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, the company is the nation’s largest metal-service-center operator and had 2013 revenues of $9.2 billion.


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