Belgium attacks: U.S. firms remain resolute

HomeInside FCNewsBelgium attacks: U.S. firms remain resolute

March 28/April 4, 2016; Volume 30, Number 20

By Ken Ryan

The March 22 bombings in Brussels hit close to home for a few flooring executives whose companies have large-scale manufacturing operations in Belgium.

Paul Murfin, CEO of IVC US, has flown American Airlines through Brussels and knows the spot near check-in where two bombs went off. A third blast occurred at Maelbeek metro station. In all, the attacks killed 35, including at least four Americans, and injured 340, many of them critically.

“I personally have flown through that airport many times, and we have many employees who fly back and forth between Brussels and the U.S.,” Murfin said. “This could easily have impacted some of our colleagues. To this extent, this incident certainly hit home.”

IVC US, Unilin and Beaulieu Flooring Solutions (BFS), with its Beauflor and Berry Alloc divisions, have manufacturing facilities in the European country. In fact, IVC, which was acquired by Mohawk Industries in 2015, is the fastest growing manufacturer of LVT in Europe, fueled by its new state-of-the-art plant in Belgium.

The reaction among flooring executives is that the terrorist attacks—and the threat of future events—is not likely to change company plans. “I think the biggest challenge is going to be travel in the future,” Murfin said. “Employees that travel will need to be ever more vigilant and I have no doubt security will be ramped up in all areas as a result of [recent] events—not just in Belgium but across Europe.”

Steve Roan, sales and marketing director, North America, for Beauflor USA, traveled to Brussels two days after the Paris attacks on Nov. 13. “My personal feeling is that if we start altering our life plans due to these circumstances then the terrorists win. I am certainly not saying not to be diligent and observant, but we need to show that what they are doing will not produce any positive results.”

Roan said that to his knowledge Beauflor has not made any corporate changes. He added that he would be taking his sales team to Belgium through Brussels on April 2 for sales meetings. “All meetings are still on schedule.”

Unilin, a division of Mohawk, has done extensive laminate manufacturing in Belgium for many years and continues to be a leading player throughout Europe. Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing, Mohawk Flooring, laminate and hardwood, said it is business as usual for Mohawk/Unilin. “We live in a world filled with all kinds of threats and have to be sensitive to these changing conditions while continuing to conduct business. I was in Belgium the week before the attacks and would go back again this week if I needed to.”

Murfin said his impression is that the attacks will have limited impact on IVC’s operations in Avelgem, which is about 90 minutes outside of Brussels. “I spoke to someone from the U.S. who was visiting over there. I was told it is really business/life as usual except for the media attention, and travel in and out of the airport [is disrupted], but this is simply one perspective and not a company view.”

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