50 contract glaziers

Companies adjust, diversify to stay strong through the recession
Katy Devlin
April 16, 2009

50 contract glaziers

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Project features

Custom challenges at UCSD Price Center

Tower Glass, Santee, Calif., #19

Community construction

Trades come together to overcome challenges at Fort Zumwalt East High School
Hilboldt Curtainwall Inc., St. Louis, #38

Free flowing

Cooper Union features multiple layers of exterior facade
W&W Glass, Nanuet, N.Y., #7

Courting contractors

Heinaman dives into high-school campus project with favorite customer
Heinaman Contract Glazing, Lake Forest, Calif., #16

'The first of the best'

Palmer Ridge High features more than 26,000 square feet of storefront and curtain wall framing
Metropolitan Glass Inc., Denver, #29

As the U.S. economy continues to struggle through the recession, contract glazing owners and managers are adjusting business practices, diversifying bid submissions and looking to loyal customers to keep afloat.

While the overall economy began its fall during 2008, many contract glazing firms continued to report strong sales growth during the year. Of the firms included in Glass Magazine’s 50 Glaziers list this year, 82 percent reported sales growth from 2007 to 2008. However, some company owners say they expect sales to drop for many glaziers during 2009 and 2010 as current backlogs disappear and fewer projects come online.

“Right now, we’re working through the backlog of business that we sold in 2007 and 2008 out into the time period of 2009. It’s basically residual business that we had before the economy turned,” says John Heinaman, president, Heinaman Contract Glazing Inc., Lake Forest, Calif. Heinaman’s sales increased 67 percent from 2007 to 2008 and is 16th on this year’s list, up from 18th last year.

“Obviously 2009 is a little different for everyone,” says Barry Swaim, owner of Tower Glass Inc., Santee, Calif., which captured the 19th spot on the list and saw sales grow 68 percent from 2007 to 2008. “We have a good backlog due to hard work. There will not be the growth in 2009, but it should still be a decent year. We are trying to capitalize on the relationships we have developed when the market was more robust. Our team is working harder now than during the last few years.”

Many of the glaziers interviewed say they are looking to repeat customers to help keep sales up in 2009 and through 2010.

Enclos Corp., Eagan, Minn., stayed at number two on the list, increasing sales 35 percent from 2007 to 2008. Mic Patterson, director of strategic development for Enclos, attributes the company’s growth in part to “a customer base built of repeat clients, developers, general contractors and architects, who know what we can do for them in terms of design assist, quality, schedule, and cost.”

Letitia Haley Barker, president of Haley-Greer, Dallas, says her company has also relied on repeat customers to remain strong and grow. The company’s sales increased 67 percent from 2007 to 2008. “We’ve been working with good customers and [gaining] repeat business by doing quality and safe work,” she says.

Haley-Greer is capturing new work by bidding on a more diverse project types. “We are willing to step out of our comfort zone and look at projects that normally we wouldn’t consider,” she says.

Haley-Greer isn’t alone in looking for new types of projects to bid. Barker says she has already seen a number of new competitors coming into the market. “There are a larger number of national competitors coming to Texas for work, versus just our normal local competitors looking at the fewer jobs available,” she says.

Don Witte, CEO and CFO, Sunset Glazing Inc., La Mesa, Calif., said his company is also looking to new project types. “We have gone from a company that bid 100 percent private office buildings to a company that is bidding public work and federal work,” he said.

With the government pumps money into federal projects, public construction may become a good source of work for glaziers in the coming years. “While private construction has slowed significantly as developers can’t get money, we’re seeing a lot more funding going to public work—courthouses, fire stations, police stations, city halls,” Heinaman says. “A lot of this started before President Obama took office, but now that he’s provided more funds, it’s going with a lot more speed.”

In the following pages, see the complete 2008 50 Glaziers list and read features on five education projects from contract glaziers included in the list.

Not included on this year’s 50 Glaziers list? Write kdevlin@glass.org to ensure you receive a form submission notification for next year’s list.

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at kdevlin@glass.org.