Management at Presidential Pools & Spas recently rehired a handful of employees who were let go when the company was forced to cut overhead.
“It was definitely a good feeling, being able to contact
those people and ultimately bring them back,” said James
Frabasilio, vice president of the Gilbert, Ariz.-based firm, a Pool
& Spa News Top Builder.
The returning workers were primarily designers and warehouse
staffers, bringing the company’s work force up to 70;
however, that’s still more than 75 percent below where it was
five years ago.
Frabasilio hopes to further fortify his work force in the coming
months as business continues to rebound. Currently,
Presidential’s volume is running 10- to 20 percent above last
year. But it’s too early to tell exactly when, and to what
extent, the firm can resume rehiring, Frabasilio said.
Large pool companies across the nation, particularly in the
hard-hit Sunbelt states of Arizona, California and Florida, are
grappling with similar dilemmas. While staffing remains down
anywhere from 30- to 80 percent among many of the industry’s
traditional power players, several report increases in leads and
signed contracts over the first half of 2010.
Nonetheless, there’s growing uncertainty — and varying
opinions — on when it may be appropriate to invest in
replenishing a depleted work force.
After all, the economy remains a mixed bag: Stocks as of mid-May
were performing nearly 20 percent above the previous year. And the
Labor Department reported rising retail sales in April.
At the same time, U.S. housing starts in April fell from the
previous month, and industrial production tapered off, too,
according to the Federal Reserve.
In Central Florida, Tampa Bay Pools has seemingly turned the
corner. In 2009, the firm built 105 pools, then saw that number
increase to 142 in 2010. Based on the first five months of 2011,
Tampa Bay is on pace to surpass that total this year.
In fact, early projections led the company to take on a new sales
coordinator in January. That means the Brandon, Fla.-based Pool
& Spa News Top Builder now stands at nine employees, from a
high of 15 several years ago.
But company President Ken McKenna Jr. said it would be another two
months before he felt comfortable bringing on more staff.
“The last thing we want to do is bring someone in and have it
be an aberration, and then have to let them go,” he said.
About 100 miles northeast in Sanford, Fla., Richard Moseley has
cause for optimism, albeit the cautious kind. Consumers are ready
to begin buying pools again, said the vice president of Champagne
Aquatech, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder. Moseley noted an
increase in promising leads through April, but he isn’t quite
certain when the rehiring can begin.
“We’re stuck in the position of asking ourselves,
‘When and where do you hire?’” Moseley said.
“We’ve been through the turbulence of the last three
years — when was the last time we had a recession that lasted
this long and was this hard?”