glassblog

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year to one and all. Now, will it really be a "happy" new year for our industry? Personally and professionally, I do think by year end, we will look back and note that things have turned the corner. However, there are a few landmines that have popped up recently ... that could affect the positivity. Silver: it just hit a 30-year high, and predictions are that it will keep going higher. In fact, I have seen stories talking about silver going up to anywhere from 60 to even 86... (It's sitting now at 28/29). Silver is a pretty important player in a lot of what our industry provides, so a massive price increase will have effects.

In addition, the cost of lumber has been growing as well. I think everyone would love to get materials on returnable and reusable steel racks, but sometimes that's not possible. Major increases in wood also will take a toll. And last on my doomsday opener here: gas. Yep, I have been whining about gas prices for years... and now the predictions are $4 and $5 per gallon gas in the future. Yikes. All in all though I am still positive... it's a great new year ahead and we'll work through all the landmines thrown at us.

Elsewhere...

  • If you missed my year in review, you can find it here.
  • Also, if you missed it, the ABI did have a nice finish to the end of the year. Congrats to those of you in the Northeast; man, it looks pretty promising your way.
  • This week is the International Builders Show. I am hoping to get there for one quick day. As always, it will be interesting to see the attitude on the floor. That show sometimes can be a pretty decent indicator of the year ahead.
  • Did you happen to see the article on China Glass Holdings' expectations that their energy-related products will make up half of their sales by 2012? Right now, that segment is only 10 percent of their work... so of course my thought is at least China is getting and grasping the need for value-added, energy-related products. Also in that article, a very ominous line: "I'm a little worried about new supply in the glass market in 2011. Glass prices will be under pressure this year, although perhaps demand will help keep the falls capped," said Haitong International Securities analyst Zheng Zhihao. Wow, when the Chinese are worried about capacity... that really makes the mind race.
  • The fine folks from the Window and Door Dealers Alliance put out a piece here explaining the new tax credit rules for residential windows. I know most people who read this blog are commercial folks, but this question does sometimes cross over, and heck, it's good just to know.
  • Also for 2011, I started yet another phase of a lifestyle change... otherwise known as a diet. Since I am now bigger than most offensive linemen in the NFL, and more importantly, I am running out of clothes that fit, I had to get back on the wagon. So much fun just eating like crazy.... Oh well. So with that news, if you have stock in Domino's or M&M Mars, you may want to sell... because their biggest customer is now off the market for awhile.
  • Registration is open for Glass Week and BEC. Some very good pieces yet again on tap for that event. If you have never gone or haven't been in a few years, give it a go. It is worth it on several levels.
  • Funniest thing I saw during the holidays? When I was in L.A., I saw a van advertising a local plumber. His motto was in all seriousness: "The Smell Good Plumber."  I never, ever associated my need for a plumber with the smell he might leave behind.
  • By the time many of you read this, the BCS National Championship will have passed... but so I am on record... I am going with Oregon.... I think it's a close first half, but Oregon wears 'em down in the second. Final score: Oregon 41, Auburn 24. 

Read on for links and video of the week... 

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

In anticipation of the coming year, I polished my crystal ball, hoping for a clear picture of what 2011 would bring personally and professionally. Unfortunately, the picture was a bit blurry, clouded by a stagnant economy and cautiousness among forecasters regarding the year ahead. While most agreed the economy would grow, few completely ruled out the possibility of a "double-dip" recession. While they said total construction starts would rise, they also cited a number of variables that could affect those predictions. Overall, I got the distinct impression that everyone was hedging their bets in regards to 2011. It seemed the only sure thing was that recovery would be slow, for the economy, the construction market and, consequently, our industry. 

In times like these, it would be great if economists could tell us exactly what to expect so that we could prepare. Wishful thinking aside, we do have the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the economic and construction forecasts, and prepare for the future in the way we're most comfortable. With that in mind, the January 2011 issue of Glass Magazine features articles on the overall economy; the nonresidential, housing and remodeling markets; as well as the fabrication segment.

Some highs and lows for the year ahead:

First, the good news. For the construction industry, "the worst is over," according to Keith Fox, president, McGraw-Hill Construction, New York. Following four years of decline, total construction starts are expected to move in a positive direction in 2011, increasing eight percent over 2010 to $446 billion. See "The slow climb."

The bad news: Both nonresidential and residential construction starts will remain far below pre-recession peaks this year, leaving the construction segment with a long way to go before we can rest easy. There is also the lag time between construction starts and spending to consider. Construction starts typically lead construction spending by at least a year, explains Gary Danowski, vice president, PPG Industries, Pittsburgh. "Because glass is one of the later expenditures in the construction cycle, it will take a while for expected growth to positively impact the glazing industry," he says.

The good news: For retailers, the remodeling market shows potential in 2011, with homeowner spending expected to increase 12.8 percent this year, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. The recovery began in fourth quarter 2010 and should pick up steam going into 2011, buoyed by low financing costs and a wave of previously foreclosed homes coming back on the market and in need of renovation, according to Kermit Baker, director of the JCHS Remodeling Futures Program. See "Delayed reaction."

The bad news: For those offering window replacement services, tax credits—or the lack thereof— could affect business this year. On Dec. 4, 2010, the U.S. Senate rejected a proposal by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that sought to extend and modify the existing home retrofit tax credit for windows that qualify toward energy-efficient home improvements, according to a release from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association.

The good news: Fabricators are taking advantage of slow market conditions to reevaluate their business plans and product mix, according to Glass Magazine's informal survey. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said future expansion plans included adding new products. That said, a significant percentage of fabricators are taking a “wait and see” approach to 2011, with 25 percent of those surveyed reporting they had no expansion plans in place.

 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

President Obama signed an $858 billion tax bill into law Friday, Dec. 17. The Senate passed the tax package by a vote of 81-19, Wednesday, after rejecting three amendments. The House passed the measure 277 to 148, with 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans voting "no," on Thursday. By passing the bill, the president prevents taxes from rising as early as New Year's Day for almost every American household.

The two-year legislation is an extension of the income-tax cuts implemented 10 years ago under President George W. Bush. The cuts would have expired on New Year's Eve.

According to a Washington Post article, the package includes a one-year reduction in the payroll tax rate for individuals, to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent; an expensing break that would allow businesses to write off new equipment purchases in the 2011 tax year; and continued funding for an emergency program that provides up to 99 weeks of benefits for jobless workers. Additional major new incentives for business and consumer spending in 2011 would include a 2-percentage-point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax that would let workers keep as much as $2,136.

The package is expected to give middle-class families a boost, cut taxes for small businesses, create 2 million jobs, and provide a safety net for those looking for a job. It also includes $55 billion in benefits for Washington's most influential industry groups. The energy and agricultural industries, for example, will continue to receive a generous ethanol tax credit at a cost to taxpayers of about $6 billion in 2011, according to The Post article.

Read a CNNMoney.com story on the tax package to understand how it affects you.

Tell me your thoughts: Will the legislation get you any bang for your buck? Will it be good for businesses looking to invest and expand their workforce? Or do you think the temporary extension will eventually become permanent, setting lower tax rates far into the future?

The author is senior editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at smukerji@glass.org.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What a year it has been. While some companies were able to grow through partnerships and acquisitions in 2010, others were forced to close their doors. While the commercial construction segment continued to slide, green building grew at a rapid rate. From hurricanes to "death rays," 2010 also had its share of freak occurrences. Some of the top stories:

Most-clicked news stories of 2010

1. Nashville flooding impacts glass and glazing companies

2. Zeledyne to exit commercial glass business

3. Arch Aluminum exits bankruptcy

4. PPG announces price increase

5. Arch CEO provides post-bankruptcy picture of company

6. Industry ponders Silverstein's departure from Arch Aluminum

7. Barber Glass in receivership

8. PPG, C.R. Laurence Co. announce sales alliance

9. Mid Ohio Tempering closes

10. Alcoa to acquire Traco

 

The economy
2010 was another tough one for our industry. Tighter lending conditions and high vacancy rates continued to suppress commercial building, while state and local budget cuts negatively impacted institutional building and educational facilities.

Fabricator woes
The industry said goodbye to several long-standing fabricators in 2010. Zeledyne officially exited the commercial glass business in March after more than 35 years of service. Mid-Ohio Tempering closed its doors Oct. 11. And industry veteran Barber Glass Industries went into receivership this November, although its retail operation in Guelph was saved. Still standing: Arch Aluminum & Glass, which emerged from bankruptcy in first quarter 2010.

Price increases
Citing increased material, transportation and labor costs, several primary float manufacturers announced price increases on float glass products this summer.

The ASHRAE 90.1 reversal
The industry dodged a bullet this fall when ASHRAE reversed a decision that would have greatly reduced the amount of glass allowed in commercial buildings.

Lead-paint rules
On the retail front, the EPA issued lead-paint regulations in April that significantly affect companies offering window replacement services in pre-1978 homes. Industry efforts to repeal the rules are ongoing.

Partnerships and acquisitions
To name a few: In January, Hartung Glass Industries acquired AGC Flat Glass North America Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia. Also that month, C.R. Laurence announced the first of several acquisitions this year, beginning with Tajima Corp. USA. In March, Kawneer entered the fire-rated steel market by partnering with Switzerland's Forster Profile Systems. Alcoa agreed to purchase Traco in June. And this November, Viracon expanded into Latin America and Brazil with its acquisition of Glassec Vidros de Seguranca Ltda. 

Going green
Even in a depressed market, demand for "green" buildings continued to grow this year, with the value of green building construction starts up 50 percent from 2008 to 2010, according to McGraw-Hill. This year also saw the introduction of ASHRAE 189.1, the first code-enforceable green building standard in the United States.

And the list goes on...

To add to it, or to share your expectations regarding 2011, please comment here or send me an email. And if I don't talk to you between now and then, Happy New Year!

The author is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at jchase@glass.org.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Last week's customer service piece brought a ton of reaction my way. But really none better than the folks who informed/reminded me of the fact that this "bullying" tactic happens in our industry all the time. Now it's nowhere near the personal vile that the New York Times piece presented, but there's a few manufacturers/fabricators that have used the bully tactic: basically, threatening that if you use someone else, you'll never get to use their company again and you will be ruined. Now, most people would normally ignore such a threat, especially when you are in our world right now (tons of supply; low, low prices and weak demand). But incredibly, there are people who actually buy into this, including one account who I personally know of who literally believed if they gave work to other fabricators they would be doomed. So, the moral to the story is I guess the negative bully approach has its merits, even our little piece of the world.

Elsewhere...

  • Has ever the line "The weather outside is frightful" been more accurate than this weekend for the folks in the Midwest? What a miserable storm... and how about the roof of the Metrodome in Minnesota ripping apart? The video from Fox showing the tear and the water streaming in was amazing. (The footage of the collapse is our Video of the Week.)
  • I am patiently awaiting the next batch of leaks from Wikileaks: the inside story of the NFRC. You know that has to be in there, right?
  • This week's rant about air travel is the pet peeve of not putting your smaller item under the seat in front of you. The overhead bins are tight enough as it is, but last week I watched person after person put their briefcase, laptop bag, purse, etc., up top. Just makes me nuts. C'mon folks; common courtesy would be nice.
  • Interesting to see how the case between AGC and the City of Marshall, Mich., plays out. Mashall gave AGC tax breaks for their plant there, but when AGC shuttered the location, it made the town want to get the lost tax money back- or "clawback" as the article states. I see both sides here. A deal is a deal, and AGC was within their rights to do what they did. Heck, they stayed their longer than most people would've given how bad the economy was. But the city has some angles here too with the commitments and length of the deal. Regardless, this sort of thing is going to show up more and more because happy days are surely not here yet and municipalities are really hurting. They simple can't afford the old Dire Straits theme- "Money for Nothing"
  • Meanwhile, US Aluminum took some heat from this wild newspaper article. What I don't get is how does a newspaper write something so enflaming and NOT get a quote from the company?
  • Last this week, a heads up: the next two weeks will be the 2010 year in review parts 1 and 2. 2010 was probably the most bizarre year I have ever experienced, so going back through will surely be interesting. I may have to finish it from a psych ward, but it will be done. For those of you bugging out after this week... have a super holiday season and a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011! 

Read on for links and video of the week...

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I attended and graduated from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn. (Both the school and the city probably prefer not to be associated with me.)  I needed 6 quarter hours (two classes) to graduate at the end of spring quarter 1977.  It was the '70s, and everyone that knew me then said I had a good time. (I’m glad they remember, because I don’t.)

One of my classes was Marriage and Family Relations. I attended the first class and didn’t go back. By the way, I’ve been married 33 years, so I don’t think I needed to attend any more classes.

My other class was accounting theory. I have always thought this to be a nonsensical class because accountants do not work in theory. They use actual numbers to determine costs, profits, losses, depreciation, etc.

I went into the final exam with an average so low that if I got 100 percent, I could not raise my grade high enough to pass. As the professor instructed us to begin, I turned the paper over and wrote on the front, “Dr. Waters: If you pass me, I promise I’ll never practice accounting. Bill Evans”.  I got up, handed him the exam and left. 

Did I take a risk?

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville   

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Good customer service is something that gets pushed into all of us every day. You learn early on in your career that the better you treat the customer, the better chance you have to be successful. Plus, there's a cottage industry of speakers, classes and consultants to talk, teach and drive good customer service. But this past week I read the most amazing story on going "opposite" of customer service by bullying and abusing your customer to build your online base upon negative comments (truly an effect of working in the Internet world with page views and ranks). The New York Times article can be found here, and it's simply mind blowing. It's quite the read and simply amazing that this "opposite" approach could actually work if dialed down just a bit. Treating your customers badly and it working? Talk about putting the world you know on its ear!

Elsewhere...

  • Last week's ABI column got a lot of good feedback. One angle that was brought up by someone much more astute than me was the fact these are "billings," and as we all are experiencing contraction of available business, billings are probably less as well. I mean, you have to figure architects are working off of smaller margins too right?
  • Thoughts go out to a former coworker of mine Dan Luna. Heard he is battling a significant health issue. Mr. Luna is a tremendous guy who I know can overcome anything in his path.... The guy has the ability to build nuclear reactors (probably the only guy in our industry who can), so I know he'll get through this. Thoughts and prayers to him and his family during this time.
  • Lots of LEED news this past week. Glass Magazine linked to an interesting article that talked about the growth of the green building segment, though I swear any future prediction by McGraw-Hill has to be taken with many grains of salt. Also in a very interesting article here on passive homes, LEED takes a shot to the chin too. In any case, green--no matter how you slice it--continues to drive conversation.
  • Pretty bummed that the U.S. lost its bid for the World Cup in 2022. What a cool event; it would've been a neat experience for the States. The U.S. lost to the country of Qatar. Not sure how the whole Qatar thing will work out, but considering their approach to human rights and their hatred of Israel (if you have a stamp from Israel on your passport, they won't allow you in) I am not real positive.

Read on for links and video of the week...

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, November 29, 2010

After reading last week's ABI (Architectural Billings Index), I had a nagging feeling that I needed to see how accurate that whole process is. So during the holiday weekend I decided to go back into the archives of Glass Magazine to investigate. What I found was somewhat telling: a four-part series (great job by Katy Devlin) from late 2007 that predicted the slowdown to come. Back then, you could see some signs on the horizon, but most of the world was blind (or better yet, fat and happy). Yet, the ABI started to decrease and the warning signs went up. Now, there is no doubt the ABI is not perfect and they had plenty of stops and starts in the past, but they did probably do the most accurate accounting of the commercial side, so the numbers that come out from them in the next few months should be taken seriously. Hopefully, they are better than in the past.

Elsewhere...

  • Hope everyone had a great holiday... I am still full.
  • Now, before we blink, it is Hanukah, then Christmas and New Years... man time is flying.
  • More good news from the glass industry and technological advancement arena: The folks at Soladigm just picked up a tremendous honor and award from GE. Soladigm was chosen to be a part of GE's $200 million "ecomagination Challenge." GE picked 12 companies to be a part of this incredible opportunity. More info is here. At the end of the day, this is yet another great announcement showing that our industry is advanced, that we are creating cutting-edge materials, and that we are not the stick in the mud that some like to make us out to be. Congrats to the gang at Soladigm on this great news!
  • Speaking of great news, I am sure the folks at Viracon are still pretty pumped over their acquisition of Glassec in Brazil. While so many in the industry thought Viracon would expand domestically, if you listened to the quarterly calls, the focus always has been on growing internationally, and this was a great first step. Now, how long before Dr. Don McCann is as big of a legend in Brazil as Ronaldo, Kaka and Ronaldinho?
  • How about the article on the Harmon Hotel in Vegas possibly being imploded? My gosh, that would just add to one of the wildest construction stories ever. Seriously, some great writer needs to jump on the entire story of CityCenter... from the birth and concept to the crazy construction stories to the "death rays" to this. It seriously could be an epic read.
  • I am bummed Boise State lost. Then again, the only Idaho football team I root for is Idaho State since I know a hall of famer from that institution.
  • One last note from Greenbuild 2010... next year that show is in Toronto and it will be very interesting to see how that affects the attendance. I think it will actually do more than 30,000, but the breakdown will be severely weighted from the Northeast and Canada overall. If I go to that show though, I will go to Montreal first and get clothing advice from the Walker guys because otherwise my Midwest duds will not play.
  • Last, if you want to see a brainless, gory, but actually somewhat enjoyable movie go check out "Faster" staring "The Rock" Dwayne Johnson. It won't win any awards, but for 90 minutes you surely forgot about ABI's and certifications and China and so on, and to me that is worth it. 

Read on for links and video of the week...

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The glass industry representatives I chatted with during the Greenbuild Conference and Expo last week in Chicago didn't express too much optimism about 2011. Most think 2011 will remain flat, looking much like 2010. However, on the green products front, glass and glazing exhibitors were more positive. Most say the green building movement continues to drive growth for energy-efficient glass products, despite the slow construction market.

Helen Sanders, vice president technical business development at Sage Electrochromics Inc., Faribault, Minn., said high-performance technologies, such as SageGlass, have strong growth opportunities in the current market. "Everyone is asking the same questions about the economy. I'm optimistic. I think for us, the news of the Saint-Gobain investment is great validation of what we're doing, and will help us going into 2011," Sanders said. "This really is the next generation of glass. You think back, the slide rule was normal 30 years ago. But technology moves so quickly. I think our kids will look at us in 30 years and say, 'static glass?' It's like the difference between a computer and a typewriter. I think in the future we'll see dynamic glass and static glass working together."

Oliver Stepe, senior vice president for YKK America AP, Austell, Ga., agrees that green products offer growth opportunities even in the current market. "We're forecasting growth for YKK in 2011, as we focus on our energy products," he said.

Glass industry companies are pushing development of green products, and the industry brought a range of green products to the show floor last week (see the photo galleries and videos for more information). Sun shades and light shelves continued to be big, with several companies coming out with systems to address maintenance concerns. All of the framing and glass suppliers were touting ever improving performance values with their new systems (thermal barriers are a must with the framing folks, and increasingly advanced coatings for glass). Viracon, Owatonna, Minn., for example, has come out with a new line of solar control laminated glass products, said Garret Henson director of sales, North America. Additionally, the company plans to introduce a new low-emissivity coating in Spring 2011 "designed to achieve a solar heat gain coefficient of .25 or better," he said.

Suspended film technologies also were quite prevalent at this year's show, with Serious Materials, Sunnyvale, Calif., promoting the insulating glass units with suspended coated film used in the Empire State Building retrofit, and Southwall Technologies, Palo Alto, Calif., announcing its partnership with Dow Corning to develop suspended film IGUs for commercial applications.

This green product development is critical to the success of the industry once the construction market emerges from its slump, Stepe said. "In my view, the industry is a new world now. It's not the same industry as it was before the recession. When things pick up, it's not going to be, how can we keep doing what we used to do, it's how can we evolve. It's a totally different landscape," he said. 

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Monday, November 22, 2010

In addition to the coverage of Greenbuild that Katy Devlin and the team from Glass Magazine provided, I offer you my own special take. Overall the show continues to generate tremendous buzz and is still pretty much dominated by a much younger crowd than AIA. After a slow start, with what most people I talked to said was the worst first day of any show, ever, the rest of the time did improve enough for many folks to consider it a winner. So while the whole “green” push may be mellowing some and finding a fair and rightful place in our world (far from the over the top greenwashing from the early days) there’s no doubt that segment still has sizzle.

Elsewhere …

As is my tradition … seen and heard from the trade show floor …

-- The style of the show was copycat … several exhibitors copied the incredibly cool vest style created by Rob Struble at PPG. Even the folks at PPG noticed it. It was everywhere. Anyway I think Rob being the trendsetter he is, now has a knack for fashion, wonder how long before Ralph Lauren comes after him to design the 2011 line?
Sage, fresh off their incredible news was swamped each and every time I walked by … I am very happy for them that’s for sure …. It was wild to see Traco incorporated in the Kawneer booth, I had to do a double take … Dlubak and Pilkington were across the aisle from each other with Doralco, Berkowitz, and Edgetech all around the corner, so that was actually one part of the show floor that had some flow. It was good to see all of those guys … yes even Bob Price. Viracon was as busy as normal … I joked with them that they should just retire the booth and set up a white sheet with their logo on it because people were coming to see the folks working and not the stuff behind them … I guess the Starship Enterprise has been put out of service as OldcastleBE again went with the wide open “White Album/Siegfried & Roy” look.

OK now onto non Greenbuild stuff…

-- The ABI went down, which was disappointing but not all that unexpected. New project inquiries were still in decent shape, but the bugaboo is the financing, and quite frankly until some loosening there happens, I think this report will continue to be about the same monthly.

-- Hey, interesting offer from NFRC as they are pushing a special introductory rate to join. Basically ½ price for year one … which is interesting to me on a bunch of levels- with times so tough, it’s a shame that existing members aren’t getting a break and really comical the membership push has come to this. And by the way, your vote wasn’t worth anything at full price- it surely won’t be listened to at half price either.

-- Congrats to Tracy and Ellen Rogers on the birth of their son Rylan George. Cool name that is. Considering how well the mom writes and how great the dad speaks, that kid is going to be a heck of media threat when he grows up!

-- Finally this week … those of you who know me know that my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Always has been and despite what seemingly always happens to me lately around this holiday, always will be. It’s the perfect mix of family, food and football and a time to cherish for sure. So from me and my family to you and yours- Happy Thanksgiving!!

Read on for the links and Video of the week.

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

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