Friday, January 1, 2010
2009 has wound down, leaving in its trail blood, sweat and tears. Arch filed for bankruptcy; Coastal Glass ceased operation; Oldcastle and PPG closed plants; PPG slashed 2,500 jobs; and AGC laid off workers. It was a rough 12 months, to put it mildly.

To add to misery, in 2010, glass and glazing folks will face challenges in the form of cap and trade and health care reform. In a rare Christmas Eve vote, Senate Democrats passed the health care legislation by a 60-39 margin. The House passed its bill in November, and officials say by February the two sides will sort out its differences and pass the final version.

Some have labeled the legislation a “government takeover of health care.” Read a story on industry professionals’ concern about the matter.

Meanwhile, by brokering a climate deal in Copenhagen less than a couple of weeks ago, President Obama has committed himself to push for comprehensive climate legislation in the Senate this year. To deliver on the pledges that the president made to other world leaders, it will be essential to enact a legislation to cap the U.S. carbon dioxide output and allow polluters to trade emission permits.

Not pleasant news for the glass and glazing industry, a major emitter of greenhouse gas. Read a story on how cap and trade could hurt the industry.

In the field of codes and standards, the proposed revisions to ASHRAE 90.1 could have undesirable effects on the industry. Read story.

However, all is not gloom and doom. The bright spot is the economy finally beginning to turn. At the Outlook 2010 Executive Conference in October, economists said housing starts will expand 26 percent in 2010. While single-family housing starts will rise 30 percent, multifamily starts will advance 14 percent.

Unfortunately, the picture is not as positive in the commercial sector, the economists at the conference said. The recovery in commercial construction has been pushed back to 2011 at the earliest, assuming that credit markets continue to improve and lending conditions become more accommodative. In 2009, the decline for commercial buildings in square footage was 54 percent, and in dollars down 43 percent. For 2010, the loss of momentum will continue, though the declines will ease as contracting retreats another 7 percent.

Overall, the level of construction starts in 2010 is expected to climb 11 percent, the Outlook 2010 economists said.

What are your lessons learned from 2009? Will you apply those this year to improve your situation? Tell me how.

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, December 14, 2009
As the editors and I conducted interviews for the January 2010 forecast issue of Glass Magazine, we spoke with a number of glass company execs about their plans to remain profitable in what forecasters predict will be a challenging year ahead. Several themes emerged, among them: cutting costs, diversifying product and service offerings, and extending marketing efforts.

We found that the economic downturn has spurred many companies to revisit their sales strategies as they seek out new customers. With this in mind, we are running a two-part series on outbound sales calls in Glass Magazine.

In addition to the written articles, available here and in the upcoming February 2010 issue, we've partnered with ContactPoint to introduce an interactive format on that allows you to listen to examples of good and bad sales calls.

Here is one example of a sales rep effectively gathering information about potential future jobs.

Example 4: Identifying additional job opportunities

For more examples, click here. If you have recordings you'd like to share, please send them to

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, December 7, 2009
It’s been more than three weeks since I returned from the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Phoenix, but the green dust certainly hasn’t settled. Maybe it’s all the press coverage about President Obama’s upcoming visit to the climate summit in Copenhagen, or maybe it’s the news that my alma mater was just named America’s Greenest Campus (Let’s go Maryland! *clap* *clap*), but I just keep thinking efficiency and seeing sustainability. And not even hacked e-mails and re-invigorated global warming skeptics can rain on my green parade.

While we (“we” being that universal we, meaning you, me, the lamppost, the industry, the nation, the world) still have a long way to go, I can’t help feeling excited and motivated about the environmental and energy-conscious strides that we have taken, particularly in the construction industry, just in the last decade.

These strides were made very apparent during a conversation I had at Greenbuild with Eddie Bugg, director of sustainable solutions, Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga., about how the industry has “greened.” Kawneer has been involved with the U.S. Green Building Council and the Greenbuild conference since its inception, Bugg said. “We’ve been here since there were only early adopters. When USGBC hosted the first conference, we were there, with a card table and a couple of table-top samples.”

According to the conference catalog, the first Greenbuild was held in Austin, Texas, in 2002, and hosted a little more than 4,000 people. “Back then, we were an emerging movement, a collection of dedicated, passionate people who knew we were coming together around a good idea,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the USGBC, in the catalog. Attendance topped 27,000 at the recent Phoenix Greenbuild.

“Year after year, the number of exhibitors and attendees grows,” Bugg said. “This used to be considered a niche market. People weren’t sure it would stay around. During the last two years, it’s become evident that green is mainstream. … The direction that architects are going, the direction that the building industry is going, it is right in line with where Greenbuild is going.”

The mainstreaming of the green movement was emphasized by the USGBC’s theme for this year’s Greenbuild, Main Street Green: Connect to the Conversation. Hopefully we’re now at the point where individuals and companies have to decide to get on board or get out of the way. And from the large number of glass and glazing companies on the Greenbuild floor—about 100 by my count—it looks like the industry is getting on board.

Read more coverage from Greenbuild.

--By Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
One of the big names in aluminum storefront and glass fabrication tripped last week: Arch Aluminum and Glass Co. filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Nov. 25, with the Southern District of Florida U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Court documents list the fabricator's assets at $0-$100,000, with $100MM-$500MM in liabilities, according to The filing does not include Arch's Canadian holdings or Trulite.

Trouble had been brewing at the company for awhile. Arch had 28 facilities in 17 states and 2,400 employees, but in October announced it was "selectively closing or temporarily shuttering" facilities in: Kansas City; Rogers, Minn.; Nashville; and Sarasota, Fla.

According to a South Florida Business Journal report on Nov. 30, “The company said in a news release it would sell all assets to an affiliate of Grey Mountain Partners LLC (“GMP”), a leading private equity firm in Boulder, Colo. The company said it would seek approval for an expedited auction process with the GMP agreement as a so-called “stalking horse” bid, but it did not immediately disclose the bid amount.”

In an interview with Glass Magazine, Leon Silverstein, president and CEO of Arch, said: "It was the size and fall of the economy that caught everybody off guard. With sales down in excess of 20 percent, it is much harder to manage through."

The primary problem was not being able to restructure debt, Silverstein said. "We have a syndicated loan of seven banks. Just think about trying to get seven people to do something. And with the problems the banks have, with the regulators up their rear end, it’s just hard to do things."

What does Arch’s bankruptcy signify to the industry? In particular, to the commercial glazing sector?

At McGraw Hill Construction’s Outlook 2010 Conference Oct. 15-16, Robert Murray, vice president, economic affairs, McGraw Hill Construction, New York, said that the value of new construction starts in 2009 was estimated at $419 billion, a 25 percent decline that follows shortfalls of 13 percent in 2008 and 7 percent in 2007. The level of construction starts in 2010 is expected to climb 11 percent to $466.2 billion, he said. Read story.

However, commercial building construction is not out of the woods yet. Bankers are still tightening lending standards and affecting projects, Murray said. The recovery in commercial construction has been pushed back to 2011 at the earliest, assuming that credit markets continue to improve and lending conditions become more accommodative, according to the Construction Outlook 2010 report.

Max Perilstein, Arch's vice president of marketing, pegged commercial glass industry's recovery even further back. On Nov. 19, he wrote in his blog: “Some analysts see the commercial glass industry struggling until … get this … 2013! Seriously that was a prediction and the first I have seen that has not shown the uptick coming by the end of 2010. Just typing this boggles my mind, but we’ve had such a solid run for a long time, you just can’t fathom that some of the tough times could continue that long.”

What is your take on the market? Will more major players falter before we go on the upswing again?

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, November 23, 2009
You've been sued. It could have been prevented, or you could have at least had a solid defense to get you out. It's too late for that now.

That should grab your attention. That's the situation one glass shop recently found itself in, and shared what they learned the hard way so that the rest of us might avoid the same perils in the future. So, without going into the whole case, here are some takeaway points that we should all take to heart.

State your warranty clearly. Spell out what you do and do not cover, and for how long. Don't leave any room for "creative interpretations" that can be used against you. For example, this company's statement that printed on every work order and invoice read as follows: "Materials and Labor are guaranteed for one year. Insulated glass carries 5-year warranty from manufacturer, we warrant labor for 1 year." That statement is clear to people in our industry, but not so clear to outsiders. Worse, it leaves plenty of room for interpretation. In this case, the glass shop sold IGUs to a millwork company, who installed the glass in windows they were making. The glass company simply brokered the IGUs, buying them from a local manufacturer and delivering them to the millwork company. When the IGUs began to fail in the first year, the customer claimed that the glass shop was on the hook to cover their labor costs, even though the glass shop sold them no labor, because the warranty stated that labor was covered for the first year! Obviously, that was not the intent of the warranty, but the glass shop ended up with a fight on their hands, and it's a fight they could easily lose.

Avoid even the appearance of deception. The millwork company went on to claim that they were maliciously deceived by the glass company into thinking that the glass company was manufacturing the IGUs in-house. Again, the warranty statement at least implies that someone else is making them, but state it in writing on your quote for all to see.

Keep your Web site updated, and be careful what it says. This glass shop's Web site stated, "We keep all glass fabrication in-house!" But the shop doesn't make IGUs. Again, the intent of the owners was honest: they do fabricate their own glass (cut, polish, bevel. drill, etc.), and they don't manufacture IGUs and never meant to imply that they do. In hindsight, that distinction between fabricating and manufacturing could and should be more clear, lest it be used against them in court. Which it was. Read your Web site as an outsider, or better yet as a plaintiff's attorney, and see what could be misunderstood or twisted to use against you.

Choose your vendors carefully. Don't just buy on price. Does your IGU supplier have a professional operation, a clean plant and good equipment? Does your temperer routinely test their glass and log the results? Saving a few cents now can cost you in the long run, at the least in callbacks, and at worst in a jury award! If things go bad, you are going to have to explain how and why you chose that specific vendor.

Require insurance certificates from your vendors. This is the big one, the most important lesson here. The glass company in this case obtained a ruling against the IGU supplier requiring it to indemnify the glass shop. But the supplier did not have insurance in place, and no money with which to indemnify, so the glass company was left holding the bag. Don't just assume your suppliers are taking care of their business, require them to give you a certificate of insurance.

If you get sued or have a claim made against you, be involved. Don't just hand it off to your insurance company and hope that it goes away. Your insurance company is looking out for #1, despite what they might say. If there is a way for them to deny coverage, they will. They will choose an attorney for you, and that attorney probably gets a lot of business from the insurance company. Most attorneys take their obligation to you, the insured, seriously, but some might want to look good to the insurance company by identifying a way to get them out of the claim altogether, leaving you on your own. So, stay in the loop, ask questions, be involved, and be cooperative. You might also consider hiring your own attorney to look over the shoulder of the insurance company's attorney; this is an additional expense to you, but will keep everyone honest.

Our friend in this case ended up settling with the customer, but could have avoided a great deal of expense, time, and heartache if they had just known then what they know now! So now you know, and of course "you should not consider this as legal advice" and should talk to your own attorney about any and all of the above! In the end, the above is worth exactly what you paid for it.

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I have spent a fair amount of time in Phoenix and never considered it a green, environmentally friendly city. The city, located in Sonoran Desert, far from its main water source, the Colorado River, sprawls 517 square miles and has a population of more than 1.5 million, ranking it the fifth largest city in the country and the largest capital city in terms of population. All of those people in all of that space use a lot of water and a lot of energy, particularly since average high temperatures top 100 degrees during the summer. And sure, it’s a dry heat, but I attended my sister’s college graduation from Arizona State University one May, and the temperature hit 115. I’ll tell you, once it’s over 100, dry heat or not, it’s just hot. Air conditioners hum to make buildings comfortable, sprinklers work to keep nonnative plants alive, and misters spray cool water mist onto shoppers in outdoor malls. Phoenix seemed to me to be an unsustainable city. And then I went to Greenbuild and learned quite the opposite.

The City of Phoenix hosted the 2009 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Nov. 11-13 in its Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified convention center. View a photo gallery of the convention center. The day-lit and glass-heavy convention center that features solar panels and sits just blocks away from the Valley Metro light rail is a perfect representation of the efforts Phoenix has taken to become an environmentally friendly and sustainable city.

"Greenbuild didn't come to Arizona by accident," Beth Vershure, executive director of the Greenbuild Arizona Host Committee, said in the Official Greenbuild 2009 Blog, according to a Nov. 13 U.S. Green Building Council release. "A strong USGBC chapter, the Valley's new light rail system, Phoenix's LEED Silver convention center addition and USGBC's recognition of Arizona's growing commitment to sustainability all factored into this decision."

According to a Nov. 7 Arizona Republic blog posting, Phoenix’s water usage has sustained the same level as a decade ago, despite the city’s population growth. Additionally, the city is beginning its 30th year of its comprehensive recycling program.

In March, the city government enacted the Green Phoenix strategy to make Phoenix “carbon-neutral and the most sustainable city in America,” said Mayor Phil Gordon in his letter for the convention catalog. “The Green Phoenix initiative … is a comprehensive, collaborative effort designed to leverage the Federal government’s emphasis on job creation, energy efficiency and economic recovery.”

If fully implemented, the three- to four-year plan would cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent, equal to taking 80,000 vehicles off the road, according to a March 11 article from the Arizona Republic. The plan also includes building a solar power plant on 1,200 acres at the city’s landfill in Buckeye, Ariz., and transforming Phoenix into a “solar city” by installing solar panels and solar water heaters in existing buildings and requiring them for all new facilities. Home and business owners would also receive incentives for solar panels and weatherization, according to the article.

Is Phoenix green? You bet.

--By Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor
Monday, November 9, 2009
According to the hundreds of glass company executives who have already responded to Glass Magazine's 2010 "State of the Industry" survey, the answer is "no" by a slim margin. But the jury is still out. If you'd like to participate in this important industry survey, you have until Nov. 23 to do so. We will reveal the final results for this question and many others regarding the financial health of the North American glass industry in the January 2010 issue. Click here to take the short survey. I look forward to sharing the results.

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Anyone who ever doubted the sincerity of “Safety first” corporate value statements need only look at recent industry events to see that the phrase is more than just a catchy slogan.

In fact, safety has been driving many of the most important developments in the auto glass industry over the last few weeks.

In Vegas, Cindy Ketcherside of IGD Industries won the first Carl Tompkins Distinguished Service Award from the AGRSS Council, in recognition of her long-time dedication to enhancing industry safety.

You’ve gotta' love the mantra she has made a part of her company’s fabric: “We’re not in the auto glass business installing ‘windshields,’ we’re in the safety business of installing ‘safety-shields.’ ”

Cindy gets it.

Also recently, Allstate Insurance rolled out a new Distinguished Performers Program to recognize and reward quality workmanship within auto glass shops--a welcome initiative that shifts the emphasis from price-driven coverage to safety and quality. The NGA has thrown our support behind the effort and will be encouraging other insurers to follow suit.

Allstate is getting it.

Harvesting--the unsavory practice of proactively encouraging unnecessary installations--is gaining national attention.

Safety is at the core of the harvesting issue, along with ethics.

And here at the NGA, one company joined the association last week with the explicit goal of getting 100 of their technicians NGA certified.

At the core of their motivation … you guessed it: Safety.

I think you get the point. Safety is top-of-mind for many far-sighted executives and companies committed to instilling best practices throughout their shops. They know it’s both the right thing to do and good business.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association
Friday, October 30, 2009
We are in the 4th quarter of the calendar year. What can you do to impact the current final weeks of 2009? It is at this time of year that many companies get off schedule. They lose their focus as holidays approach, the temperature changes, and preparation for winter begins. To use a sports analogy, most games are won or lost in the 4th quarter; most races are won or lost in the final meters.

Lessons from dad
Now is the time to implement strategies that impact the 4th quarter results while simultaneously laying the foundation for 2010. My father sold pots and pans door to door in 1940. Remember, the world was still in a depression and a war was in its inception in Europe. From Thanksgiving to Christmas he walked, without much success, from house to house trying to sell his wares. The week between Christmas and New Years Day is, in our culture, a slow time.

But dad needed money for tuition, so he decided to keep knocking on doors. He had his best sales week ever. It seems that there were many men who had either not gotten their wives a Christmas gift or had gotten them an unsatisfactory gift. He set company sales records. His company was so impressed that they offered him a full-time sales manager position. His company noted that he was one of a very few that worked that particular week. Most of his peers had quit for the year. Yet he was successful because he kept knocking on doors.

Now or never!
Now is the time to implement strategies that impact your 4th quarter results while simultaneously laying the foundation for 2010. Set some Big Hairy Audacious Goals for 2010. If you knew you couldn't fail, what goals would you set? Remember, though, these goals have to be measurable and have a specific time frame.

The two reasons people don't hit their goals are that they never really set them or they set them and forget them. So, write them down. Post them. Get pictures to remind you of them. Get someone to hold you accountable.

In a few weeks I will be meeting with 10 fellow glass shop owners. I will announce my 2010 BHAG and challenge them to participate. Start running the race for next year now. Get a head start on your competition.

Break the tape!
Don’t quit on this year! Keep “knocking on doors.” Keep “running the race.” Don’t “quit” before the end of the game. Will you finish with a burst of speed to hit your goals or will you limp across the finish? It’s up to you. Do something today to break the tape in 2009!

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
Monday, October 26, 2009
When I bought a home in 2005, banks were more than willing to finance the purchase. Some were offering loan amounts that exceeded my comfort level by tens of thousands of dollars.

Today, banks are much more cautious, and loans are hard to come by, say glass company execs. “From our standpoint, one of the most major challenges right now is the availability of money,” says Newton Little, executive vice president, Ace Glass, Little Rock, Ark. “Money is available, but [banks] want you to have more skin in the game than we think is reasonable,” he says.

It’s the banks, not the number of jobs coming in, that’s more of a problem, says Charlotte Broussard, owner and CEO, Universal Window and Door LLC, Marlborough, Mass. “This year, we are quoting more projects than we have in the last three years, with continual value engineering. After the engineering, unfortunately many banks are not funding the projects,” she says.

Credit will be instrumental for us to move forward, agrees Ed Sieber, president, Glass Doctor of Charlotte, N.C. “We’re going to need the capital to buy vans, equipment, etc., for when we do grow. Dina Dwyer, CEO, The Dwyer Group, was on Capitol Hill speaking before Congress to help free up credit for small businesses. If they can make some headway and free up some of the credit, it will enable us to be able to hire people back.”

Indeed, underwriting standards remain tight, according to a Sept. 9 “State of the Financing Markets” Webcast from Lincoln International LLC, with offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. “Conventional wisdom would say that the broader economy is out of the recession and company performance is improving; however, credit is available for only the highest-quality companies,” officials stated in the presentation. “The recent stagnation in loan volume and mergers and acquisition activity is due to a combination of lack of visibility into many borrowers’ future performance, and underwriting standards of lenders still providing capital remaining very tight,” they said.

Glass Magazine will delve deeper into the issue in the December 2009 edition and we'd like your input. How is the credit crunch affecting your business, and what effect has it had on your customer base?

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
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