The May 15 edition of The Wall Street Journal focused on how TD Industries is coping with the nation's economic slowdown. The Dallas-based mechanical contractor, which ranked No. 22 in PM's list of Pipe Trades Giants last year, has been lauded in the business press for years as an excellent place to work. For the past four years, for example, Fortune magazine has rated it among the 10 best companies in the country to work for.

Now, however, with its backlog shrinking, TD, with 1,500 employees, is faced with the possibility of layoffs just like any other business.

TD is in a particularly harsh spot since the company is owned by its employees. Last year, revenue reached $204 million up from $168 million in 1999. But this year, the company it will be lucky if revenue comes in flat.

The Wall Street Journal says Jack Lowe, TD chairman and managing director, will resist making layoffs, but is prepared to do so if need be: "If you don't have enough work for everybody, we'll have to lay off."

The article went on to report that TD is taking numerous measures to win business and hold down costs so it won't have to hand out pink slips. The last time TD laid off workers was in 1989, when it trimmed employment by as much as 20 percent.

Lowe, who owns 6 percent of the company, says that experience helped the company make better long-range plans. Considering the cyclical nature of construction, Lowe says the company keeps its growth in check. "We don't want more than 30 percent market share in the peak times," he explains. "If you've got an 80 percent share and it goes to 50 percent, you're going down."

Recently, the company has paid more overtime and hired some temporary workers so as not to swell the payroll. The night the article appeared, TD held its annual celebration to recognize employees who have been at the company for five years. That's more than 400 people.

Lowe added he planned to talk about the shaky economic climate: "I will say that ours is a partnership of the spirit. And we've been through much tougher times than this together and we're much better prepared this time."