The news footage in recent weeks about wildfires raging across Southern California showed an unlikely West Michigan connection: Wyoming-based HME Inc. made many of the fire trucks used to fight the blazes. President Jim Monterusso said the company, which recently finished the first of six custom fire trucks for the city of Detroit, has strong demand for its products, although many municipalities struggle to find the funding they need to upgrade their safety equipment.
“Barring an unexpected geopolitical event, we expect to see conditions in our sector of the transportation industry to be generally favorable. As a manufacturer of heavy truck chassis and fire trucks, demand in our industry tends to trail an economic recovery as those dollars become taxes and make their way out to municipalities for infrastructure and public safety investment. The current recovery has been longer and more muted than most, so market demand should continue trending upwards in 2018. The need for our products is clearly there. Actually, overall demand for fire apparatus has still not returned to pre-recession levels. According to industry statistics, roughly one in five fire trucks in the U.S. is now 16 or more years old, and about three out of five are more than 10 years old. Rescue equipment is not like hamburgers or handbags that people can just choose to go without. These products are essential for the safety of our firefighters and fellow citizens. The question is not ‘if’ these needs are manifested in the market, but ‘when’ and ‘how.’ We are actively assessing our product offerings and manufacturing capacity to ensure that we can meet these needs in 2018 and beyond. I expect we will move ahead in 2018 with initiatives in both areas. … The current uncertainty around tax reform and public infrastructure spending makes it difficult to predict short and medium-term timing. The need for our products is undeniable. Figuring out when and how those demands will appear in the market is still very difficult. We would like to make some additional investment in manufacturing capacity. Like with most businesses, though, uncertainty tends to slow or even halt implementation of those plans.”