In 1980, when it became apparent that mobile brick factories would be crucial to the country’s future, President Ronald Reagan decided to give them a shot.
“There are going to be thousands of mobile brick manufacturers, and they’re going to fill the jobs of millions of Americans,” he said.
“They’ll be good for our economy.
They’ll be great for the environment.”
He called them “dumb money,” which is a bit of an understatement.
As technology advanced and the brick industry grew, the need for brick factories grew.
Today, there are about 12 million mobile brick producers in the United States, according to the National Brick Builders Association.
Many of them are small businesses, like those that make small batches of bricks for a living.
But others are large corporations, like the brick-making giants that are among the largest brick makers in the world.
Brick factories in the 1980s Brick factory owners and managers, circa 1980.
Image courtesy of the National Board of Building and Construction Trades.
The brick industry’s economic boom has been a boon for local communities across the country.
It’s also made it harder for many local communities to keep up with the demand for brick.
The industry’s boom has also created a glut of new bricks that is making it difficult to keep pace with the ever-increasing demand for bricks, according.
“It’s been a pretty tough time in this country,” said Mary Ann Zirkel, president of the Brick Association of America.
“We have a big boom here.
We’ve got a lot of jobs and people are coming into the brick business.”
A lot of the brick factories were built during the Great Depression, when a lot less people lived in poverty.
Now, the boom has caused an economic downturn.
Some brickmakers have lost their jobs and have closed shop.
Others have gone bankrupt.
But for the most part, brick factories have stayed open.
The average age of the average brick factory in the U.S. is 35.
Brick factory workers, circa 1970.
Image by Robert B. Smith, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
“I was there, I saw it happen,” said John F. Sutter, president and CEO of Sutter Industries, which owns Sutter Mills, which produces bricks in New York and Pennsylvania.
Sutters own company made $9 million in profit last year.
“If you look at it as a job, I think it’s a good business,” he added.
But, like many brickmakers, Sutter was struggling with the growing demand for mobile brickmakers.
As the industry has expanded, so have the costs associated with keeping the factories open.
In 1984, the industry’s operating expenses totaled $10 million, according the Brick Buildners Association.
That figure has increased by a whopping $30 million to $15 million today.
Even if the bricks that Sutter makes today were made by the same company, it would cost about $5 million to keep the brick factory open.
“The big difference between the brick manufacturing and the mobile brick manufacturing is the brick is made by hand,” said Zirke.
“So it’s much more labor intensive and you don’t have the automation.
You can’t automate it.”
That makes it even harder for brick makers to meet the demand that the boom created.
Brick manufacturers are also struggling with some of the same problems that are plaguing the rest of the industry.
“In the last 30 years, the brick companies have been struggling with an increased need for automation and robotics, which are the areas where we have the largest and highest costs,” said David M. Siegel, the executive director of the Business Alliance for Automation and the Future, which works to bring robotics to brickmakers in the brick making industry.
Robots, which make bricks, are now more popular than they have ever been, according with the Pew Research Center.
That’s made it even more expensive for brick manufacturers to keep those robots at bay.
“This is a very, very large business,” said Siegel.
“Every brick factory is going to have to do something to keep their robotics on schedule.
They have to be on schedule to meet what they need to meet.”
As more and more brick factories are closing, brickmakers are having to take some financial hit as well.
“You see it as you make more and make fewer bricks, it makes you less competitive,” said Robert B, owner of Sudden Brick.
“But it’s also just a lot harder to keep on top of.”
The trend toward automation is also hurting brickmakers’ ability to maintain quality.
“When you have fewer bricks in your warehouse, that’s the first thing you need to worry about,” said B. “As automation goes on, the quality of the bricks gets worse.”
In many cases, brick makers aren’t even making the bricks anymore.
“At some point, brick is gone,” said L.M. Farrow, president, Brick Industries of America, a nonprofit that represents brick