Few industries have been more hammered by the economic recession than construction, and small and mid-sized companies in the field are using innovation not only to survive but to strengthen their position in the coming years. “Innovation now is so important,” said Nurit Regev, president of Texston Industries in Canoga Park, a small manufacturer of Venetian plasters and Old World stuccos, who’s been hard hit by the downturn. To counter the economy, the company recently launched a new label, shifting its focus from walls to floors. “We took our line of cement wall plasters and reformulated it, through chemistry, to be applicable to floors as a micro coating,” said Regev. “We’re expanding to new product applications and into new markets such as the floor market and also going after areas that we think are strong,” she said. Texston is banking on this strategy, combined with aggressive cost cutting, and shifting toward local manufacturers instead of importing materials, to make it through the recession. Along with a continued focus on greening their products and sustainability, these strategic efforts will hopefully allow the company to gain a strong foothold in the market as it recovers, said Regev. Innovation is an upside of any economic recession and may be the best way to not only survive a recession but remain a strong competitor always, according to Ed Rogers Director of Business Development for CaesarStone in Van Nuys, one of the largest producers of quartz surfacing material in the world. The company, rooted in innovation since its inception according to Rogers, is responding to the economic downturn by preparing to launch two new lines of products early next year that anticipate changes in the industry as a result of the recession. “Houses will be smaller, people will be staying in them longer, the days of the “McMansion” are over;” he said. “Products will be used longer, hotels are not going to be remodeling their rooms every few months, they’re going to be looking for durable materials that can withstand the test of time,” he added. “And ‘recycled’ is a huge deal, it’s something consumers can really connect with.” The company will be introducing new colors of quartz surfacing material made out of recycled glass, mirrors and scraps of quartz, that still maintains the overall integrity of quartz surfacing. CaesarStone will also be launching a limited option of colors at a lower price point, to help builders and consumers looking to lower costs in the short term as well as the long term through durable products. As these companies are using innovation during the down economy to drive growth in the future, Chusid Associates in Tarzana is taking advantage of the down economy to promote those innovations. As a building product marketing and architectural technology consultant, Chusid Associates helps clients, including Texston and CaesarStone, test, market, and brand their products, introducing innovations to architects and contractors. The down economy could not be a better time to do that, according to company founder Michael Chusid, who has more than 30 years of experience in the building products industry and is a licensed architect. “Architects and contractors, while they may not have a lot of work to do, have a little more time now to look for new ways of doing business,” he said. “When everybody was going full tilt as they were a year and a half ago, building, building, building, no one had time to stop and think about new ways and better ways. Now, by golly, you’ve got time, and if you’re going to get the work, you’ve got to find a more competitive edge.” As more building product manufacturers see the need and value of marketing their products today, Chusid Associates is growing despite the financial climate. The company recently hired a new employee, expanded its office space and is expecting to end the year’s revenues 33 percent ahead of last year. The company is hoping to see that growth trend continue well into the future. “Many of our clients are quite clear that the marketing work we are doing now is not aimed at producing revenue this year or even in 2010 but is geared to position them to be profitable in 2011, 2012,” said Chusid. At the heart of Chusid’s success is the innovation of its clients, he said. “We’re sustained by the creativity of our clients. We tend to attract and maintain relationships with clients who are constantly reinventing themselves.” Chusid Associates is now helping CalStar Products, headquartered in Silicon Valley, introduce its new innovative product to the market. The company invented a brick that contains 40 percent post-industrial recycled material, uses 90 percent less energy to make, and generates 90 percent less CO2 than traditional fired clay brick. Chusid Associates is helping CalStar demonstrate their product’s comparable or better performance over clay bricks, prepare technical communications to inform designers and masons about how to work with the new product, and support the overall branding strategy for the green market. “Because of the nature of the work we do with the integrated technological and marketing sides, a lot of the clients we attract have the products, the techniques and the materials that will be cutting edge next year,” said his son, Aaron Chusid, who also works in the business. Ultimately the company understands that in a changing and evolving industry there might be entire generations of new materials ready to revolutionize the industry by the time the economy fully recovers.