MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Now to Grand Rapids, Michigan and a businessman who is seeing an upturn as the dollar slides. Tom Groos is chairman of the Viking Group. Thanks for being with us, Mr. Groos.
Mr. TOM GROOS (Chairman, Viking Group Inc.): Thank you very much.
BLOCK: And I was reading on your Web site that your company represents global leadership in fire protection. What does your company make?
Mr. GROOS: Well, Melissa, we're a manufacturer and distributor of fire protection systems primarily fire sprinkler systems and valves and all of the devices that are used in that type of a life safety system.
BLOCK: And when the dollar is sliding, as it has been, your exports, I gather, are going way up?
Mr. GROOS: I wouldn't say way up, but we're certainly not disappointed with the way things are going right now. We've been involved in international markets for over 30 years. And certainly, when we're selling into places like Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the falling dollar makes it a little easier for our customers and easier for us to compete.
BLOCK: Who's buying now? Which countries are buying now that may not have been before?
Mr. GROOS: Well, the growth of our exports is more a function of the growth in the concept for our product than it is really the falling dollar. But good markets for us during 2007 - the Middle East was very strong for us, India, parts of China, Eastern Europe and places like Russia and Turkey also did very well.
BLOCK: Mr. Groos, when you wake up - as you must have this morning - to hear the news that the dollar is at a record low in Europe, at a 12-year low against the yen, do you wake up thinking, gosh, that's good news for my company or that's bad news or something in the middle?
Mr. GROOS: You know like most things in life, it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, certainly, the lower dollar helps us with our exporting. But long-term, it's not a healthy thing for our country because the price of a currency reflects the overall economic health of a nation. So while it gives me some short-term comfort, I certainly would not want to see the trend continue and I don't believe that it will. The U.S. has a nice, strong, diversified economy and I just don't think that the trend will continue at this rapid rate.
BLOCK: You must travel overseas a lot for your work. When you do that, do you really notice it now that the dollar is just buying way, way less overseas than you're used to?
Mr. GROOS: Oh, yeah, definitely. The most dramatic thing is hotel rooms in Europe. You know, in London, it's pretty tough to find a decent hotel room anywhere near the center of the city for less than $500 U.S. - gosh, 10 years ago it was less than half that.
BLOCK: So that $500-and-up hotel room in London, do you get breakfast for that?
Mr. GROOS: No, never.
BLOCK: And what are you paying for breakfast?
Mr. GROOS: I never eat breakfast in a hotel. I always go out in the street and find something, you know. At a little cafe or something it's about a tenth the price.
BLOCK: Yeah. And it still sets you back or is it okay?
Mr. GROOS: Oh, no. That's much more reasonable. You can get breakfast for less than eight pounds or something.
BLOCK: That's 16 bucks for breakfast.
Mr. GROOS: Yeah, and that doesn't get you much more than a, you know, a nice pastry, you know, a scone or something and a cup of tea.
BLOCK: But a probably really good cup of tea.
Mr. GROOS: Yes, the best.
BLOCK: Well, Tom Groos, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
Mr. GROOS: Thank you.
BLOCK: Tom Groos is the chairman of the Viking Group which makes fire protection and suppression systems. It's based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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