TONI MALISANI INTERVIEW

Tony Malisani, New President of MIA

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For over sixty five years, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has served as the authoritative source of information on standards of natural stone workmanship and practice and the suitable application of natural stone products. Membership in the association is worldwide and includes nearly 2,000 natural stone producers, exporters/importers, distributors/wholesalers, fabricators, finishers, installers and industry suppliers  all committed to the highest standards of workmanship and ethics.

-Your estimation about marble sector worldwide for 2014. It is written that building industry recovers and natural materials are on the rise.

We live in a world that has been through some very tumultuous political and economic times over the past few years. This environment has kept sectors of the building industry at lower than normal activity levels. There have also been pockets of increased economic activity and development. Hopefully we will see a period of normalized predictable relations between countries and across trade zones. I believe that we will see an increase in the use of marble worldwide this year. Here in the US we have seen a renaissance in the use of marble for projects of all sizes. Only a few years ago marble slabs and tile selections were very limited. Now it is one of the most preferred materials in the marketplace. I believe that a very aggressive promotional effort, tied to the use of educational opportunities for design professionals has had a fantastic impact on the selection and use of marble in the United States.  Producers and distributors will need to be creative in how they communicate their message, but I do believe that they can drive the conversation and increase consumption.

-Your vision and philosophy as leader of MIA.

Anyone who has seen the look of wonderment on a child’s face when they discover an unusual or beautiful rock knows that there is a natural love of stone inherent in mankind. Stone is the ultimate building material and has defined fine architecture for millennia. No other product captures the imagination of, designers, builders, and owners like natural stone. It also has the distinction of being the most beautiful, sustainable, recyclable material used. I think that education and cooperation are the keys to our capability to flourish as an industry. We have the most imitated products on the planet. It is not hard to find porcelain products, ceramic tile, laminate and acrylic surfaces that are copies of natural stone.  We need to continue to educate consumers on the value of natural stone, and demonstrated our commitment to a sustainable future. I also believe that we as an international industry need to focus on our areas of common interest. Making trade between companies in different countries easier is a worthy MIA activity. Only with a united effort can we successfully promote our products, implement new technology and train the skilled workers we will need to advance our noble industry.

-Your goals for 2014. Main issues you are going to deal with.

I would like to see more international co-operation going forward. To that end we have put a committee in place to help develop a set of standards, and a guide to international stone trade. We hope that by eliminating miscommunication between trading partners, and creating achievable expectations, there will be fewer conflicts. We will be spending time developing a strategic plan for the MIA. This roadmap will help to ensure that we are using our resources in an efficient and focused manner. Many different partners and members from all segments of the industry have been asked to participate. We are also developing training resources for our member companies and the employees that make their organizations great. We are producing course materials for managers, sales representatives, installers, laborers, and fabricators. We will be using technology to make access to these resources very easy. It is our hope that this effort will make top quality information and preparation available to the passionate, eager workers that are the future of stone. We need to develop a pool of highly qualified, very knowledgeable workers to allow for growth while maintaining the highest possible standards.

-American market.

I welcome the active participation of our Greek friends in the mutually benefical relationship that is the Marble Institute of America. Many famous marble structures still stand today as a tribute to the craft that has thrived in Greece. By sharing information on the acceptable uses and best practices for processing materials, many fear based objections can be eliminate. The free exchanging of data will help to build long lasting relationships that are collaborative enterprises. We should be friends.

-Which are the criteria (for a company), for its successful entrance to USA stone market today as far as it concerns making business, export, participate as material

A reputation for good quality products, and honest dealings is always important. It is essential to put your company in front of the decision maker for the market segment that is targeted. To sell marble to the residential market it would important to both create a demand for the product and pursue distribution channels to ensure availability to the suppliers. The preparation of infrastructure to facilitate the transportation of materials and a knowledge of government regulations are also key to efficient trade. Interest can be created through the use of electronic media, and the prominence of winning awards for completed projects.

-Supplier in large scale building projects.

Success in larger building projects is often dependent upon the specification of a material many months or years before the project bids or is started. The design team often must be convinced that the material availability is sufficient and that the supplier is committed to meeting all deadlines for selection, mock-ups, and delivery. It takes an investment of resources, and time to find out what specifiers and designers are looking for marble for their projects, but the information is available. An online presence is a must to reach as many potential decision makers as possible. New finishes and application ideas are sometimes the catalyst for a material specification.