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Taylor Devices sitting pretty With annual sales and profits soaring, 2008 looks even better

Taylor Devices chief executive Douglas P. Taylor isn't too worried about a recession cutting into the North Tonawanda company's construction markets.

"The economy that we see in our markets is improving," Taylor said Friday during the annual shareholders' meeting of the giant shock absorber maker.

"We're looking forward to another good year in 2008," he said. "Our backlog is strong. Our customers are strong."

Coming off a fiscal year that saw sales rise 11 percent to a record high of $16.5 million, with profits jumping 27 percent, Taylor said conditions this year are pretty much the same as they were last year.

Taylor, however, wasn't willing to be more specific about his outlook for the fiscal year that started in June, declining after the meeting to quantify his expectations for sales and profits. "I don't like to do forecasts," he said.

Still, Taylor downplayed the potential impact on the company from the steep U.S. housing slump and the tightened lending standards it is producing. Economists are split on whether the slowdown could push the overall U.S. economy into a recession.

"A bad housing market helps us, because it boosts the need for condominiums," which are more likely to be a candidate for the seismic dampers that Taylor Devices makes because big condo projects can involve towers of upwards of 20- and 30-stories tall, he said.

About 60 percent of Taylor Devices' sales last year came from the seismic products it makes to help protect buildings and bridges from damage during earthquakes or high winds. Almost three-quarters of the company's work came from the United States, up from slightly over half the year before.

"The U.S. markets, from our viewpoint, are improving from where they were four or five years ago. The Asian market is booming," Taylor said.

One of the company's high-profile projects is the rehabilitation of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Seasonal climate fluctuations and high winds, combined with vibrations from trucks and pedestrian traffic, had caused cracks in the museum's concrete-coated exterior walls.

"The outer walls of the Guggenheim were no longer firmly connected to the building core," Taylor said.

The solution that the museum adopted was to install Taylor Devices dampers at the museum's roof level to connect the exterior shell with the inner core. The company expects to install the dampers between exhibits during January and February, Taylor said.

Taylor said the company has won several new orders in recent months, including projects to install dampers on four bridges in South Korea; a retrofit of a Caltrans office building in Oakland to shore up welds that had been weakened; and work on a pedestrian bridge in Nashville to reduce wind-induced swaying.

The company's aerospace business, which supplies shock absorption products for military uses, grew strongly last year as work picked up on projects ranging from a light howitzer to the Standard Missile 3 program.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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