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What green means for specialty fabrics customers

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Environmentally friendly products aren’t flying off the shelves as quickly as they used to, what with customers’ newfound price sensitivity. But certain types of buyers will always want the greenest option.

“This is just my opinion, but I don’t think sustainability resonates with most contractors,” says Bob Helmsing, MFC, vice president of Lawrence Fabric Structures, St. Louis, Mo. “It resonates with architects and designers. If [a green material or design] has a reasonably short return on investment, it might survive the revision process. If not, the designers might back off. It’s hard to bite the bullet right now on a 20-year payback.”

Banner Creations has intentionally sought out environmentally focused clients, tailoring its product line to appeal to them. One customer is a store called Twin Cities Green, which sells items made from recycled materials.

“They have to buy from a company like ours, because they’d be found out if they didn’t,” says Nora Norby, MFC, president of the Minneapolis, Minn., fabrication firm. “And Minnesota Pollution Control—it’d be hard for them not to buy from us. We’ve been targeting this niche for some time.”

Whether or not customers are truly motivated to purchase because of a company’s greenness, they do perceive it as responsible and reputable. That in and of itself may be what they want to find.

Miller Weldmaster Corp., Navarre, Ohio, doesn’t market green machines. However, executive vice president Jeff Sponseller has noticed that many prospective customers are pursuing green markets, so he’s trying to anticipate what kind of machinery they will need to accomplish those goals. It’s part of the company’s effort to sell machines based on the end products they can be used to make.

Jamie Swedberg is a freelance writer based near Athens, Ga.

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