Among flooring types, one of the most exciting to report on has been ceramic tile. The U.S. ceramic market has experienced great growth over the last seven years, with consumption rising 5.8% in 2016 to 2.90 billion sq. ft., according to the Tile Council of North America. Fueled by the housing and construction markets, this beautiful, practical and versatile surface has nowhere to go but up.

As Managing Editor Danielle Clair reports in her story, “The Future of Ceramic and Porcelain Tile,” in this issue, there are a lot of reasons why tile has an air of excitement around it. Technology has opened a world of design possibilities that allow manufacturers to dream up and create just about any look imaginable. Gauged porcelain panels are offering new horizons in commercial and residential design, while new installation standards, training and products are helping to create success for this category of specialty tiles.

Domestic production is also helping the category’s upward trend. Just as Dalton is the capital of carpet, Tennessee has become the state of tile. More domestic and foreign manufacturers are investing in facilities there, sparked by its location, proximity to raw materials, transportation and financial carrots offered by state and local governments.

Landmark Ceramics opened its North American headquarters last year with an ambitious plan to produce high-quality porcelain tile 24 hours a day. In 2016, two years from opening, the Del Conca Group doubled its U.S. capacity and is working on a $30 million expansion. Tile manufacturer Dal-Tile is building a second plant in Dickson, Tenn., a year after completing the 1.8-million-square-foot, $180 million plant in Dickson Co. Industrial Park. Florida Tile, owned by Italian Panariagroup, has been aggressively expanding at its Lawrenceburg, Ky., production and distribution facilities. Also, China-based ceramics company Wonderful Group is investing $150 million into a plant in Lebanon, Tenn.

Companies are also getting more aggressive with their sales and marketing tactics. Crossville Tile & Stone, the distribution division of Crossville Inc., changed its name to Crossville Studios earlier this year to better reflect its growth and transformation. MS International, with 24 distribution centers nationwide, continues to invest in showrooms, recently updating and expanding its Houston showroom and distribution center to 210,000 sq. ft. Also, Emser Tile, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, opened its 71st branch location in Tampa, Fla., this year.

In all, the investments being made are creating opportunity at every level of the flooring industry, and we will continue to watch how competition from other hard surfaces, along with import regulations, will affect the category in the future.