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Monday, January 24, 2011

No doubt the big news of the week was the announcement that the chairman and CEO of Apogee, Russ Huffer, intends to retire once his successor is named. In what could be the first of a few very high-profile retirements in 2011, Huffer's announcement caught many off guard, including me quite frankly. In any case, this is a tremendous unsettling of the industry, and we'll have to see who Apogee puts in to fill some very large shoes. Huffer was a very active industry participant, speaking at many events and really pushing the proper gospel that put our world in a positive light. Russ also never went with the masses. When everyone was pushing solar, Russ steadfastly held to his data that the material was not ready for prime time. I believe his stance on that forced people to go back to the drawing board, and when solar matures, I think Russ will be one of the folks to thank. All in all, this is a seismic change and I hope that Russ stays involved in our world in some capacity, because we really do need it.

Elsewhere...

  • Speaking of an Apogee company, last week I noted Viracon's amazing influence to get politicians into their plants. Afterwards, I got an e mail that asked me why I always prop Viracon while dinging "everyone else." So on that note: I believe I give Viracon the props they deserve. They have some of the best people in our world and they truly try to be a good and active industry player. And really--with the exception of a few cases that I am emotionally involved in--I have become a kinder, gentler blogger.
  • Another good month for the Architectural Billings Index... Even the West is starting to show signs of life. No doubt it is promising, but even the analysts are urging caution since December can be pretty funky. So we will see, but if this holds, then the predictions of an improved second half of 2011 will be dead on.
  • Meanwhile, in current times, January looks bleak thanks to the brutal weather. Quite simply, when glaziers in the East and Southeast are losing entire WEEKS to bad weather, well that is just not good. Oh, and then I ran across this story where scientists think a "Super Storm" may hit California. Wow. Wonder when the new codes to guard against a "Super Storm" are coming.
  • PPG capped a great year with record sales in the fourth quarter. It's nice to see this on a few levels... hopefully that health will run downstream to more of the industry (and remember, PPG is much more than just glass these days). There are some fantastic talents within PPG that work very hard to reach the heights those numbers showed. I'm happy for them.
  • Solutia introduced a new logo recently and I love it. (see kindler, gentler... when Kawneer broke out the big red K I panned it or when Visteon brought us Versalux). Seriously though, kudos to all at Solutia who worked on it--great colors, great look and style.
  • Last and not least... my ability to NOT pick teams reached a new high... and honestly I am thrilled. The Steelers are back in the Super Bowl.... and I did seriously think the Jets (and the Bears for that matter) would win. I am glad I am not a sports better for a living... but I'd love to be anyone who goes against my picks... they have to be making a ton of money. So two weeks... two great franchises.. the Pack and the Steelers. I think you know right now I am all over the Packers to win....LOL (And note, the game wasn't over 5 minutes before my Mom e-mailed and said "PLEASE, PLEASE pick the Packers to win).

Read on for links and clip 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, January 18, 2011

I love a good story, especially if it makes me laugh, so I thought I'd share a few I heard recently.

Good mood glass
"A customer comes in and says, 'I heard that a specific ray of light makes you feel better in the winter. I want you to sell me a piece of glass that lets that ray of light come through my porch window so I can sit on my porch in the winter and not get depressed.' Now, our salesman is walking around and telling everyone he's selling 'good mood glass'."

The key is under the mat
"We have a ton of funny pet stories in customers' homes. Like the one where the woman said the key was under the mat. As soon as the sales guy entered the home, the alarm went off, but it wasn't the alarm. After a few moments of waiting for the alarm service to call, the fellow realized it was a parrot that had been trained to make that sound. When he went over to observe closer, the bird bit him."

The little Jeep that could (not)
"Just yesterday, we had a customer who had ordered a medium-sized mirror [come in]. She thought our installation price was too high and said she would pick it up and her husband would install it (you know what's coming). She showed up in a little Jeep and then gave our shop manager all kinds of grief because the mirror wouldn't fit into her vehicle. She said we should have had a 'case or wood rack' built and ready for her. I guess then we would have had to bolt it onto her Jeep..."

Measurement dilemma
"More than once, a customer has called with this dilemma: 'I just picked up my window glass order and it is cut wrong. I ordered a 24-inch by 36-inch and you cut it 36 inches by 24 inches. It's too wide.' I try not to make the customer feel too silly when I suggest they could turn the glass the other way, but you can hear it in their voice ... they just had a lights OUT moment."

Why so many doors?
"When I am doing a home show, at least 10 times a day, people will look at my shower door display and ask why they would need so many doors in one shower. Or, they will ask if we provide the steel frame for it as well."

Do you have a funny story to share? If so, we'd love to hear it. Please leave a comment here (if you'd prefer to remain anonymous, that's ok) or shoot me an email.

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

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 17, 2011

Mother Nature showed her strength last week with the brutal storms in the Southeast and the combo storms in the Northeast. Add to that the rain out West, and we have had some awful weather recipes lately. It's pretty wild that so many things have an effect on our world, including the weather. Every day, it seems like there's something new and different that hits all of us more than other trades. Anyway, I wonder if any of the analysts who develop future economic forecasts take weather into account. After all, a rough run of terrible conditions can surely be a negative driver. Hopefully Mother Nature has it out of her system!

Elsewhere...

  • This week, the FTC stepped up and ended the "Tested Green" certifications after finding the products were not tested or even "green". The release from the FTC is pretty interesting actually, and it's good that it happened. The whole greenwash gig is not good for any upstanding group, so having actions like this are a step in the right direction.
  • Didn't get a ton of time at the Builders' Show this past week... still some thoughts: The show was smaller than traditionally. One vendor used the word "slim," which kinda sounded right. Not sure how the bad weather up North affected it, but it probably did somewhat. Actually though, I think this show has been "right sized".... It was way too big and way too crazy, and now it's the way it should be. The happy days of midget Elvis performers in booths are long gone, that's for sure. The overall attitude was also leaning toward the negative, which surprised me since so many studies are showing positives for 2011. I guess we'll see.
  • Speaking of reports, there were a few more good ones about 2014 and so on with loose ties to our world. Not sure what the metrics are, but these reports sure are keeping people pumped up.
  • I saw that Senator Al Franken visited the gang at Viracon... I swear Viracon is becoming like the Iowa of the glass world. You know how when someone wants to run for President they have to go hang out in Iowa? Well, I think if a political figure wants to hang around glass, they go to Viracon. Congrats to those guys for attracting these folks and getting in their ears about the issues that are really affecting our industry.
  • Congrats to my friends from Walker Glass on their remodeled headquarters. All I can say is if that place looks as good as all of those guys dress... it is probably a showstopper!
  • Glass Magazine had a piece on glass developed that's stronger than steel... It sounds pretty great, but supposedly it's really expensive...
  • Last, yep I can't pick games. People who have been reading this blog since 2005 know that... and Oregon added to that pain. Anyway, my mom says to me tonight, "So who do you like in next week's game, the Steelers or the Jets?" and before I could answer she jumped in and said "PLEASE DON'T PICK THE STEELERS! You're always wrong!" Yep, my picks have hit home now, when my own Mom is aware her son is pure "Mush" when it comes to the picks. That said, I do actually think the Jets will beat the Steelers. If the Steelers played the Pats, it would be different, but I think Rex Ryan and the Jets are a team of destiny, and in the Super Bowl, they'll play the other team of destiny: the Bears. (The Bears have been getting breaks since week 1; it's their year).

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, January 11, 2011

As I was compiling industry news this morning, I noticed at least four articles on falls through skylights. Skylights in this country go through rigorous testing, and meet and exceed the minimum AAMA and ASTM guidelines before hitting the market. So, why so many accidents?

Product engineering of skylights demands that proper fall prevention glazing materials be used in the skylights to prevent people from falling through the skylights when they decide to walk on them, says Ron Palombo, president, Acurlite Structural Skylights, Berwick, Pa.   

The skylight accidents happening today are mainly from skylights that are either old or simply outdated, Palombo says. Skylights built in the late '50s through the '60s utilized glazing materials such as wired glass in an attempt to prevent fallout in case the glass broke. In most cases, annealed wired glass was used. "Many of the accidents you read about today are of skylights that were not designed to carry an active load or that [suffered a] catastrophic collapse due to inadequate engineering and/or poor installation practices," he says. "It is very rare that a report of someone falling through a modern engineered monolithic or insulated glass type skylight occurs today."

Product testing does not focus on the ability of the skylight to prevent fall through but focuses on long-term structural integrity and performance, Palombo says. "Our building code is very clear as to what loading requirements the skylight must be capable of withstanding," he says.  "Practically all building codes require that the skylight take a 250-pound concentrated load at any framing member that produces the most stress. Further, the code is now requiring that a glazing analysis be completed with the structural analysis to assure the glass is capable of taking the specified loads and transferring them back to their supporting members without breakage or failure," he says.

To avoid accidents, Palombo says:

  • Factory pre-assembling or unitizing of the main skylight components/frame definitely assures that no short cuts will be taken in the field during erection.
  • Transporting assembled components on a dedicated carrier is the only way to assure the assembled frames and material will arrive safely and intact. "Manufacturing the material, packaging it and sending it via a common carrier is suicidal."
  • Having factory trained erectors who are dedicated to erecting the structures correctly is monumental to the long-term stability, integrity and performance of the skylight unit. "You can cover all your bases, have a state-of-the-art skylight system with state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing, but if you don't have the right erectors putting it together ...  what are you left with?"

What are your thoughts on the issue?

Sahely Mukerji is senior editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at smukerji@glass.org.

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.

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