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Thursday, February 18, 2010
The architectural community has struggled through this recession. Faced with two years of declining business, firms have downsized, cut services and, for many, closed. According to a Jan. 20 New York Times article, employment at architectural firms nationwide was 184,600 in November, down almost 18 percent from its peak of 224,500 in July 2008. And in a recent AIA survey, 18.8 percent of respondents said their firm would be considerably smaller in 2010 because of downsizing; 3.9 percent said their firm would probably close this year.

In our architects issue in May, we would like to feature some of the products and services that architects are demanding in this changed economy, and we would like your input. Please email me or post a comment to the following questions if you’d like to share your thoughts. And thanks!

  • In your experience, what is the glass and glazing education level of architects? How much do they know about the latest industry products? What types of products are they expressing the most interest in?
  • How often do architects turn to your project managers for guidance on a project? What services are they asking you to provide?
  • How have the changes in firms (downsized staff and services) affected the way you do business with designers?

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Monday, February 15, 2010
All the news on the economy trending toward the negative can wear you and your co-workers down. The construction and our glass industry have been down. All companies have made changes and adjustments.

There are small signs of rebounding segments in the economy. It’s time to turn our mindsets, energies and strategies to the positive. The glass industry saw unprecedented growth during the last construction cycle run-up. People like to live, work, and play around the products and installations our industry produces. This exciting trend did not go away, it just slowed.

All industries go through peaks and valleys, along with down cycle economies. Ours will rebound, and it starts with us! We need an all-industry push to "Grow glass!" We have a multitude of great products for many applications. We need to showcase our products and educate our markets on the exciting ways to use them.

Like “Got milk,” it should be “Got glass.” We have the most innovative and differentiating products in the construction market. Showing these products, samples, colors, textures, specialty aspects and performance characteristics is fun!!

The more we educate consumers and show off our products, the faster our industry rebounds. Do renderings of what a new front or façade could look like and get them in potential customers' hands to think about. It works! The potential in the solar energy market is massive. Glass companies must stake a claim and make it our market. The remodel and retrofit of old energy-wasting systems is another potentially huge market.

Tired old showrooms and marketing literature won’t cut it. Let’s spiff it up. Every time we have any interaction with customers we should introduce, explain and use visuals of the exciting new products and systems.

Glass products made it into bathrooms to a high level of success. Now, how about kitchens, walls, floors, ceilings, and hallways? We have awesome innovative new products for homes and offices. What about glass doors in homes? In Europe and Japan it’s very prevalent, but not in the U.S. -- yet!

Just had a restaurateur tell me how his exciting use of glass increased his wine sales and business overall. Glass adds value and business. It’s cool, trendy and makes you feel good.

Learn from our vendors. They have great varieties of offerings and applications. Why wait around? Let’s market and sell. Re-energize and train our people on promoting glass. We need to be up with the positive and "Grow glass."

--Robert J. Trainor, chief executive officer, Trainor Glass Co., Alsip, Ill.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I honestly didn’t know what to think when I learned last year that the bid to supply blast-resistant glass for the new World Trade Center tower went to a Chinese company. On the one hand, I’m all for cost savings, provided the product or service is high quality. On the other, I identified with PPG spokesman Jack Maurer when he said in a Patriot-News interview: "This is going to be an iconic U.S. building that will have Chinese glass in it. At the end of the day, this glass could be made in the United States."

These feelings resurfaced when I read a recent New York Times article, in which Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) echoed Maurer's sentiment. “Imagine China building a huge structure intended to be an important national symbol and importing glass from the United States to build it," Brown said. "There is no way the Chinese would do that.”

In the New York Times article and a subsequent Toledo Blade piece, the national media called attention to the declining state of domestic glass production, citing Beijing Glass’ winning bid as evidence of U.S. glass manufacturers’ struggle to compete against foreign suppliers. The Chinese glass industry, specifically, experienced a three-fold increase in exports to the U.S. from 2000 to 2008, while the U.S. trade deficit with China on glass tripled in the same period, according to an Economic Policy Institute study.

“Our domestic glass industry is the most efficient in the world, but it cannot compete against production that is heavily subsidized by the Chinese government,” said Scott Paul, executive director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, in a letter to glass executives last fall. “As a result, glass production in the U.S. has suffered in recent years, with plant closings and thousands of lost jobs throughout the country.”

According to an EPI release, the U.S. glass industry has contracted by about 30 percent—nearly 40,000 jobs—since 2001. Sixteen states, among them California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have lost at least one out of four of their glass industry jobs since 2001. See how the float plant landscape in North America has changed over the past five years, here.

To help domestic glass manufacturers compete, some are pushing for tariffs on Chinese imports. Others, like Sen. Brown, are calling for a national manufacturing policy to lower the cost of doing business in the U.S. As for the glass manufacturers themselves, some—like Guardian, which The New York Times reports will supply the glass for the upper 85 floors of the tower—are continuing to expand glass production overseas. Read how, here.

"Those who are looking through the rearview mirror, waiting for the glass industry in this country to come back, should know it isn't going to come back, not the way it was," said Russ Ebeid, Guardian chairman, in the New York Times article.

What do you think the future holds for domestic glass production? Is a return to growth in the cards? Is government intervention the answer?

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, February 1, 2010
It's easy to remain committed when times are good. Everyone's busy, days and weeks run together as we go about our business, and we do the things we planned to do and are expected to do. Others do what they're supposed to do, just as we expect them to. Contracts are honored, customers pay, you pay your vendors, and everything trickles down and steamrolls ahead like it is supposed to. Sure, some people let you down. But for those of us who try to do what we say, doing so takes little effort or consideration.

But when times are tough, commitment requires more effort. Commitment becomes intentional. Commitment requires you to be ... committed.

I am reminded of this as I leave a meeting at the NGA offices. Times are tough at your association, a reflection and natural extension of the tough times in our own companies, industry, and country. So the staff's commitment is more noticeable now, although it has always been there and been taken for granted. They, too, are doing more with less. They are not doing the same with less, they are doing more with less. With a smaller budget and fewer people, they are putting out more and better products for us.

The training and education opportunities are top-notch, including myglassclass.com, the Glazing Executives Forum, Autoglass Technician Certification, and the new Window and Door Dealers Forum. Glass Magazine, Window & Door Magazine, and the e-news products have the best reporting and look at least as good as anything you will find on the news stand. And just wait till you see the GlassBuild America show in Vegas this September. Just like in your company, there are also more superstars behind the scenes making it all happen.

All these people are committed, and that is a choice they consciously make. Thinking about them brings to mind all the other committed people in my life: employees, suppliers, friends, and especially my wife, but this is a shout out to the amazing staff at the NGA. You might not know them, but they are hard at work for you and me, making this industry better and our jobs easier. Think of them when you read your magazine, or take an online class, or register to attend or exhibit at GlassBuild America. If each of us chooses to be as committed as they are, then our industry, the glass industry, will lead the way in the months and years to come. And we will all be better for it.

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas
Friday, January 22, 2010
Matt Rumbaugh, division manager, Education, Training and Certification, National Glass Association



Are you on Twitter? How about Facebook? Even if you're not, you probably know people that are. Technologies that people had barely heard of two years ago are now major factors in how they communicate, how they advertise, and how they learn.

In my role here at the NGA, I spend a lot of time thinking about how people learn. Specifically, I think about how glass people learn. The challenge I have is to figure what people in the industry need to know and the most efficient way for us to help them do so. One of the things I quickly realized is that there's never a single right answer. Thus, I started reaching out to friends in the industry for help and perspective. When I did, I found that in the glass business, more so than any industry I've been a part of, relationships matter. If there's an issue in someone's glass business, they're much less likely to read for the latest business bestseller or hire a high-priced consultant. Instead, they reach out to their friends. That's one of the major factors underlying the NGA's Glazing Executives Forum. Even though we work hard to bring in quality speakers and facilitators, we always hear back that the highest value people get from the event is the ability to network with their industry peers. I'm sure other industries are similar to a degree, but in the glass business, it's definitely true that peer-to-peer learning is the most effective strategy.

We even notice this during our weekly sessions for the Glass Management Institute. For those not familiar, GMI is the NGA's professional development program. We meet via weekly Web conference with some of the brightest minds in the industry, discussing topics like sales, estimating, and project management. One of the things we've found is that our students aren't just passive observers during this process; they use technology to facilitate the learning even more. If someone has a question during our session, they raise it in our online chat room. Often, before a speaker even has a chance to read it, a fellow student will jump in with an answer or a resource to seek out more information. Students have swapped thoughts on marketing techniques, estimating software and project scheduling documents.

That's where Facebook, Twitter, and their various technological cousins come in. I'm sure you handle a lot of e-mail and you're obviously savvy enough with blogs to be reading this. But if you haven't explored these technologies, you might want to take them for a test drive. I'll confess to being a little behind the curve with Twitter (I have an account, but I haven't done much with it), but I find Facebook to be useful. At first, I mostly re-connected with friends from high school and college. Pretty soon, though, I linked up with some industry people and e-learning experts. It's become a vehicle to easily share interesting articles, exchange thoughts and ideas, and get introduced to others. There are things I learn via Facebook that I wouldn't otherwise hear about. While I may not have gotten the hang of Twitter, others have. Amazon.com uses their Twitter feed to offer special rates to their followers. Ashton Kutcher used Twitter to raise awareness of Malaria in Third World countries. During last year's protests in Iran, Twitter was the most effective way to follow the events. Sure, there's a lot of silliness, but there's a lot of powerful business activity, too.

Lest you think I'm just here to be a shill, let me assure you, I'm not. It's just that as I look more and more into how people actually learn, it's platforms like these that catch my attention. We can write hundreds training manuals or online courses, but they'll never take the place of interacting with your peers. And technology is getting better every day at facilitating these connections for all of us.

If you do decide to jump in, check out the NGA on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @NatGlassAssoc. We'd love to hear from you.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Do you perform residential glass and window applications? Or install products at child care facilities? If so, it’s time to get up to speed on new lead paint requirements coming from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Starting in April, any contractor completing work in pre-1978 homes must follow the new procedures. Not doing so could result in fines up to $37,500 per day, per violation. Some folks have told me that they don’t expect much enforcement right away. But, $37,500? That’s nothing to sneeze at.

According to the new lead paint rules, contractors working on these older homes need to be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices, and take a series of additional lead-safe steps on the job site. Download the EPA’s compliance guide to see all the new rules. For the certification applications, click here. The EPA’s Renovator and Trainer Tool Box provides additional information.

These new requirements could have a pretty major effect on some glass and window companies. If you think your company might be affected, even for just a small number of jobs every year, read a full-length article from Glass Magazine about the rules, and check out the Window & Door Dealers Alliance lead paint Webinar on Feb. 9. April is going to be here soon; make sure you don’t get caught by surprise.

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor
Monday, January 11, 2010
Let’s focus on goals. The theme of this and succeeding blogs will focus on goals, goal setting, and goal achieving.

We have just begun a new calendar year. If you have not set one or more goals for this year, do it now. Several clichés come to mind: if you don’t have a target, you can’t hit it; you can’t take a journey without a map. They go on and on. Suffice it to say that goals are mandatory, both professionally and personally, for growth and for survival. Goal setting gives meaning to everything else. A goal has to be time specific and measurable.

Can you think of anyone who has achieved anything by just showing up for work and doing what is expected? People who achieve always plan to achieve. Achievers are very specific about where they want to go and when they will get there. Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win a singles title at Wimbledon, said she had dreams, but not well planned-out goals. Once she planned her goals, she won Wimbledon. She set her sights on a goal, planned how to get it, worked to get it and got it.

Find something you want. That will be the reward for reaching your goal. Set the goal. Once a goal is set, turn the goal into a plan. Once a plan is determined, turn the plan into action by taking whatever steps are required. Keep in mind that consistency builds momentum. I have set a personal goal to run 56 miles on my 56th birthday later this year. I have determined, with the help of others, a training program to build endurance and strength. This includes cross-training, running, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, encouragement from others, and more. I have a plan to reach my goal. I have begun turning the plan into action by running, cross-training, eating well, etc. Each little action builds confidence, which in turn builds momentum and makes it easier to take the next step toward the goal.

Our company has also set goals. One in five businesses grows during challenging economic times. We have set some growth goals and have made specific plans to achieve the goals. We are beginning to penetrate markets we have not traditionally entered. We are making new contacts with potential customers that need specialty glass items. We are breaking down revenue and profit numbers so that each of us understands how we impact them. We are working to create a “we can” attitude in lieu of a “but” attitude. We can measure our progress.

Set a goal! Set several goals. Set personal goals; set corporate goals. As we enter the new year, let’s have a specific destination. Don’t wait for all the traffic lights to turn green before beginning the trip.

A quote to remember and apply: “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare,” said Juma Ikangaa, a world-class marathon runner from Tanzania.

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
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 GlassMagazine.com 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 jchase@glass.org.



—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
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