Finally, is a sustained recovery in sight?

GlassBuild America attendees say we’re one step closer
Jenni Chase
September 19, 2012
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : TRENDS & ANALYSIS

“If you are still here, then you have survived one of the most challenging economic cycles of our lifetime,” said Oliver Stepe, senior vice president of sales & marketing, YKK AP America, during the State of the Industry panel at GlassBuild America, Sept. 13.

This sentiment echoed across the show floor and down the hallways of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where industry executives gathered to assess the current marketplace and plan for the future. The overall mood at GlassBuild America 2012 was positive, with most agreeing the worst is over and suppliers reporting increased sales over 2011. Still, many remained conservative in their predictions for the coming year.

“We still have two years to go to get to a sustained recovery,” said David Petratis, president and CEO, Quanex Building Products. “But we’re closer to that recovery than we were 12 months ago, 24 months ago. JP Morgan Chase is out with a study that looks at the overall building markets and the data in terms of new homes, existing homes on the market and foreclosed homes, and the commercial infrastructure that goes with those homes is tightening up. That will put life back into the commercial and residential markets. And we think that’s important. It’s about time,” he said.

From the contract glazier perspective, James Whaley, vice president and general manager, Curtainwall Services Inc., Elmhurst, Ill., also predicted it would be 2014 before work began to “ramp up.”

“In terms of committing capital to speculative commercial real estate, I think that once there is a little bit of certainty as to the outcome of the election and Congress’ willingness and ability to defuse what has been called the ‘fiscal cliff’ year end, I think you’ll start to see development capital trickle back out,” Whaley said. “Once we turn the corner on those issues, those savvy owners who have working capital on the sidelines are going to see an opportunity to start to deploy that capital in measured doses. I’m hopeful that 2014 will offer some opportunities that I don’t see happening in 2013.”

On a positive note, Whaley reported that although the Chicago area isn’t seeing any new commercial real estate office buildings, one was recently green-lighted. “Rather remarkably, it is a purely speculative project: no pre-leasing,” he said. “I think that says something about pent-up demand for office space, and it bodes well for those of us that serve that market.”

Offering a float glass manufacturer perspective, Guardian’s Chris Dolan said that “overall, we see the market starting to improve.”

“We’re optimistic that next year is going to continue the growth that we’ve started to see this year and then [we’re] looking to 2014 to really be a strong year,” said the director of commercial glass marketing for Guardian Industries Corp.

Evidence of the growth that some suppliers are experiencing could be seen on the show floor.

“In February, I said I would be very disappointed if year-over-year we didn’t hit at least 10 percent more than 2011,” said Filip Geeraert, president and CEO of GlassBuild America exhibitor Deceuninck. “Now here we are 9 months later, and I can only say we will be exceeding that number tremendously. We are doing a lot better than our expectations.”

David Landeros, CEO of exhibitor PRL Glass Systems/Aluminum Architectural Products, said his company’s sales also are up over last year. “This year alone, we are up 35 percent versus last year, which means that things are getting better,” he said. “The market itself seems like its getting better. There’s more activity. There’s more quoting. There are more jobs.”

Jenni Chase is editorial director of Glass Magazine, e-glass weekly and GlassMagazine.com. Write her at jchase@glass.org.