Monday, May 17, 2010
2009 was a tough year for contract glaziers. Of the companies that made this year’s Top 50 Glaziers and provided exact sales figures for 2008 and 2009, 55 percent reported a decrease in sales volume. Glaziers cited decreased backlogs and increased competition among the reasons for the slide. Some described a bidding environment in which general contractors were “shopping numbers,” looking for the best deal. One company reported its competitor was bidding projects at cost, just to land the job.

Whether the fault lies with the clients for rewarding low bidders or with the glazing companies for submitting these bids in the first place, this type of environment is detrimental and frustrating for everyone involved.

I’m a firm believer, however, in the motto: “You get what you pay for.” And I think in the long run, our industry will actually benefit from this situation. If you’ve ever been burned by a service provider that you chose based solely on price, you know what I’m talking about. Oftentimes, it only takes one bad experience with a contractor to make you re-evaluate your selection criteria.

Companies that take jobs at unrealistic prices have to cut corners somewhere. As one glassblog reader pointed out: “If a contractor is 40 percent less than the rest, there is a reason. Material does not have that much of a swing from one guy to another, so … where are the shortcuts going to be applied?” Unfortunately, for some clients, those shortcuts are applied to the building itself, costing them more to fix than it would have to hire a higher quality company initially. Fortunately, for us, these clients will be better educated when they spec their next project, recognizing the value higher-priced companies bring to the table in the form of quality products, trained personnel and customer service.

While I don’t wish this experience on anyone, clients that look only at the bid number and not at the glazier are setting themselves up for failure. My bet is they won’t make the same mistake twice. What’s yours?

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, May 10, 2010
A Census Bureau person was on the news saying that, if conservatives don't participate in the census (due to their presumed anti-government sentiment), then they will be under-represented for the next 10 years in Congress, school funding, highway funding, etc. But really, everyone feels like "their position" is under-represented, whether they are liberal or conservative. We all believe that most people should think like we do, and that the system is stacked against us (and many times there are real abuses of the system that lend credibility to our assumptions).

While the census will never eliminate this "perceived" misrepresentation, neither will it result in an accurate count upon which to base our representation for the next decade. That's because the census is about counting warm bodies without regard to their citizenship, instead of counting citizens. Take a look at the form here. There are no questions about citizenship, only ethnic origin. Now, I'm not opening the whole immigration can of worms here, I'm just saying ... if we're going to use this count to establish our representation in the United States Congress, let's base it on the number of United States citizens.

Worse yet, the Census itself is a redundancy! The IRS already knows how many people are in this country, where they live, and how much money they make. They even know my kids' names and social security numbers. So, why are we counting everybody again, with an entire separate bureaucracy? Most everybody on the IRS rolls is at least a tax-filer, even if they are not a tax-payer. This seems like a much better way to establish congressional representation -- base it on law-abiding taxpayers/tax-filers, not a head count of every warm body. The result: the end of representation without taxation. The bonus: eliminating the Census Bureau will save billions of dollars, and eliminate one little bureaucracy. We can accomplish the constitutionally required count without them.

There are two possibilities regarding my theories: they make too much sense to become government reality, or I am way off base. Honestly, it could be either. Maybe the census is a wonderful thing. What do you think of the decennial enumeration? Do you have strong feelings about completing (or not completing) yours? Have you been visited by a Census worker, and what was that like? I ended up sending mine in before they came looking for me.

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas
Monday, May 3, 2010
The glass and glazing industry is starting to see the trickle-down of government recovery money, but it is not without a price. These projects are tagged with important features that glaziers will do well to be aware of. Most of the projects are for Department of Defense installations or GSA, and have blast resistance requirements.

A significant percentage of the recovery money ends up in the hands of architectural firms responsible for design and construction oversight. The design budgets are nice and fat, and many of the architectural firms hire blast-load consultants to provide design input, write specifications and review submittals during the construction phase. So now the typical submittal has to jump through an additional hoop. The blast-load consultants are usually eager to make their value known, requiring every “t” to be crossed and every “i” to be dotted.

Sometimes, the blast-load consultants are not altogether familiar with glazing systems, and this results in a nightmare of rejections and resubmittals. Submittals that are rejected require time, effort and often a tangible dollar amount to be resubmitted.

Projects with recovery earmarks are good business when you understand their process, and glazing contractors who want to cash in on the recovery money should be prepared for the additional efforts that are now necessary. Stay tuned for my next blog, where we’ll cover some of the items typically required in submittals for blast-resistant glazing.

--By Stewart Jeske, P.E., president, JEI Structural Engineering
Friday, April 23, 2010

Solar panels have opened up a booming market for glass and glazing professionals. Most big names in the industry have entered the niche. Just in the recent past, Solutia, St. Louis, agreed to acquire Etimex Solar; the Dow Chemical Co. picked Midland, Mich., as the site for the first full-scale facility for its Dow Powerhouse Solar shingles; Cardinal Solar Technologies, part of Cardinal Glass Industries, Eden Prairie, Minn., opened a facility in Mazomanie, Wis., to grind, drill and temper two types of glass for use in PV; and Saint-Gobain, France, announced plans to boost its yearly sales related to solar power up to Eur 2 billion in five years and make acquisitions in the sector. First Solar, Tempe, Ariz., the market leader in commercial systems, is participating in the solar markets at a level of $1.9 billion; total market value for 2009 was $19.6 billion in 2009, according to a recent Research and Markets study.

Even non-core glazing players, such as Alcoa, Pittsburgh, and non-glazing companies, such as Chevron, San Ramon, Calif., are getting into the solar field. Alcoa has replaced the glass in parabolic troughs with reflective aluminum and integrated the mirror into a single structure. And Chevron has transformed an old refinery site in California into a test bed for seven advanced photovolatic technologies.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has done its share to help the solar industry. Companies like Abound Solar Inc., Loveland, Colo., picked up $12.6 million in tax credits from the U.S. Department of Energy, via the ARRA, through a competitive selection process that examines how many green jobs a firm creates, the cost-effectiveness of its operations, the speed at which it implements manufacturing processes, and the overall benefit in terms of greenhouse gas reduction.

The Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act, H.R. 4085 in the House and S. 2755 in the Senate, would help the solar industry even more by expanding the commercial solar investment tax credit to include the purchase of solar manufacturing equipment. The improved tax incentive for solar manufacturing will create long-term growth and jobs. Passage of this bill would create a generally available and immediately reliable 30 percent credit for the tools to create solar panels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Washington, D.C.

You can do your bit to help pass the act. Here's how:

--Call and write your senators and representatives. If they are a co-sponsor of the manufacturing tax credit, thank them for supporting the legislation and encourage quick passage of the solar manufacturing tax credit.
--If your senators and representatives are not a co-sponsor, call and/or write and request them to co-sponsor H.R. 4085 and S. 2755.

Help create new solar jobs, while improving your lot in this wildly expanding field.

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine

Monday, April 19, 2010
The first quarter has ended. Let’s review our goals. You are either on track to achieve your goal(s) for the year or you are not on track. So what are you going to do about it?

If you are on track, you run the risk of taking your success for granted. You begin to think it’s easy to reach your goals and this can lead to complacency. You have worked hard so far this year. You have been doing the basics and have stayed focused on the end result. It’s been said that yesterday’s successes can lull us into today’s complacency, which is the foundation of tomorrow’s failure.

If you are not on track to reach this year’s goal(s), you have to make a decision. You have to answer one of the following questions:
1) The goal you set is still viable; you need to refocus on it. Are you going to recommit to the original goal?
2) Your original goal is no longer realistic. Redefine the original goal to make it more relevant and obtainable. Will you take the time to do this and commit to the updated goal?

If you do not consciously answer one of these two questions, you need to understand that you have unconsciously made a decision to give up on your goal(s) and possibly to even quit setting goals altogether.

It’s easy to focus on the immediate and lose sight of the long term. I need to get this job; I need to make this bank payment; I need to get this ordered. All of these are daily necessary items that distract us from looking at the big picture. It takes effort and concentration to look past “obstacles” and focus on the end result. If you do not focus on the end result, you cannot celebrate its achievement.

At this time of year there are several external influences that impact our race toward achievement. The weather is warmer. The colorful flowers are blooming and the grass is green again. Daylight Savings Time has made the day seem longer. People are spending more time outside. This is a very positive time of year. It is vital that we use the external influences to gain lost ground or get ahead in the race to reach your goal(s).

Every spring the activity level at our company increases because of these external influences. We get more “pep in our step.” Our expectations increase. Our attitude improves because we have emerged from the winter hibernation. As the leader at our company, it is my responsibility to remain focused on our long term goal(s). As a leader, it is my job to let my associates focus on the immediate tasks of everyday business, yet keep them on track so we will achieve the long term goal(s).

Do you expect to win?

Stay committed to your decision but flexible in your approach.

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
Monday, March 29, 2010
E-mail is easy. Too easy. Richard Kelson, Esq., Babst, Calland, Clements & Zomnir P.C., Pittsburgh, says careless or casual e-mails can open companies up to problems if a legal dispute arises. Kelson spoke March 29 during the last day of the BEC Conference at Paris Las Vegas, hosted by the Glass Association of North America, Topeka, Kan.

Kelson emphasized to the audience of glaziers and suppliers the importance of watching what you say, and thinking before you speak. E-mail has shifted the way business is done, and the easy and often informal nature of e-mails can be dangerous for companies.

“Earlier in my career, my construction cases would have 100 exhibits. People would write one letter a week, if it was important. Today, I see 1,500 exhibits because of e-mails,” Kelson said. “E-mails are speaking without thinking. E-mails are too friendly to people who are not friends. E-mails are filled with bravado. … E-mails are coming from people who don’t have authority to speak for a company, and they are sent off without anyone reviewing them.”

Technology has made it possible for council to discover e-mails that were written but never sent. Mirror drives and back-up servers can house anything that has been drafted on the computer, even it if was never saved.

“I used to tell people to follow the 24-hour rule—to sit on an e-mail for 24 hours before sending,” Kelson said. “That rule won’t protect you now. Before you type an e-mail, write it out on paper, by hand.”

Kelson added that people should never send e-mails when “you’re overtired, emotional or upset.” Any e-mail sent after midnight can wait until the morning. “Don’t make a case for the other side by e-mailing after midnight,” he said.

The reply all, copy and blind copy functions in e-mail can lead to “devastating” unintended consequences if an e-mail is inadvertently sent to the wrong parties. “E-mails can end up in the wrong hands. … Always check and consider recipients before sending,” Kelson said. He also emphasized that no one should ever be copied on an e-mail to council. “This waives privilege.”

To prevent e-mail problems, and add legal protection, Kelson said managers need to train staff on writing e-mails. "If you can't train your staff to write e-mails the right way, then get a new staff."

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Monday, March 29, 2010
Lions and tigers and bears? That’s nothing. The glass industry’s got codes and standards, and emissions regulations. Oh my.

The major threat to the glass industry right now, according to some presenters and industry officials here at Glass Week in Las Vegas, isn’t the economy, but proposed codes and standards, and emissions regulations or legislation. The economy, and construction industry, will recover (though, perhaps not as soon as we’d like). These codes and regulations, however, could limit the use of glass in buildings and weaken manufacturers' abilities to compete.

On the codes and standards front, ASHRAE 90.1 topped the conversation during the meetings. The 2010 version of the standard limits the window to wall ratio of buildings at 30 percent, down from 40 percent. A 25 percent reduction in glass could severely hurt an already suffering industry.

Fire-rated glass manufacturers are also facing code movement toward less glass. The sprinkler industry is issuing proposals to limit—or even eliminate—fire-rated glass in interior fire corridors, according to several fire-rated manufacturers.

And glass manufacturers could possibly see emissions requirements coming through legislation or through regulation. Both Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to limit manufacturer emissions nationally. The California assembly has a bill that could be approved in the near future. Emissions regulations could make it difficult for U.S. glass manufacturers to compete in the global market.

What is the industry to do in the face of somewhat overwhelming forces? Bill Yanek, executive vice president of GANA, recommends coming together to help influence change. Energy codes, such as ASHRAE, aren’t going away. However, a whole industry voice to recommend performance-based standards that provide benefits for daylighting, rather than just eliminating windows, can make an impact. And a fire-rated glass industry, often-divided over code issues, can only challenge the sprinkler manufacturers through one voice. Emissions regulations are also coming, sooner or later. Glass manufacturers need to keep up with advancements in climate change proposals, and the industry collectively needs be vocal with government bodies about its interests.
By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Last week, President Obama signed an $18 billion jobs bill to spur hiring by giving tax breaks to small businesses. The bill also includes $20 billion for highway and transit programs.

The bill was passed March 17 on a bipartisan 68-29 vote, according to an AP report. The new measure would exempt businesses hiring unemployed from the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December and give employers an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year. Taxpayers would reimburse Social Security for the lost revenue.

In addition to the hiring tax incentives and highway funding, the bill would extend a tax break for small businesses buying new equipment and modestly expand an initiative that helps state and local governments finance infrastructure projects, according to the AP report.

It remains to be seen if the bill will spike hiring in the construction sector. Construction employment continued to shrink in most American communities as 313 out of 337 metro areas lost construction jobs between January 2009 and January 2010, according to a new analysis of federal employment figures released March 18 by the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, Va.

Phoenix lost more construction jobs (27,600) than any other city in America, according to the AGC report. Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, W. Va., experienced the largest percentage decline in construction employment (44 percent, 1,600 jobs), followed by Grand Junction, Colo., (34 percent, 3,400 jobs); Las Vegas (32 percent, 24,500 jobs); Napa, Calif., (32 percent, 1,100 jobs); and Santa Cruz, Calif., (31 percent, 1,100 jobs.)

Eau Claire, Wis., added the most construction jobs (500) between January 2009 and January 2010, and experienced the largest percentage increase (23 percent) the report noted. Other cities adding construction jobs included Ithaca, N.Y., (9 percent, 100 jobs); Michigan City, Ind., (6 percent, 100 jobs); Waterbury, Conn., (5 percent, 100 jobs); and Grand Forks, N.D., and Minnesota (5 percent, 100 jobs).

The report stated that 230 metropolitan areas experienced double-digit percentage decreases in construction employment, while no city experienced a double-digit increase in construction employment. Meanwhile, 18 cities nationwide lost more than 10,000 construction jobs between January 2009 and 2010.

What’s your take on the new jobs bill? Is it going to encourage construction company owners to hire? How will it influence the glass and glazing industry?

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, March 15, 2010
Like you, I’m not immune to the seeming barrage of discouraging news regarding the construction industry out there. And frankly, sometimes I find it hard to see beyond the negative headlines. So, in an effort to brighten my outlook, I recently contacted several industry executives whose companies are doing well in this tough economy. Perhaps not surprisingly, some common strategies emerged as I listened to their success stories. One struck me in particular: Sometimes, you have to spend money to make money.

I don’t know about you, but when cash is tight, my first instinct is to save money rather than spend it. Yet, that’s exactly what these successful companies are doing. Take Maryland Glass & Mirror Co. in Baltimore, for example. It recently invested about $1.75 million in new equipment. While the company typically operates on a cash basis—“If we can’t pay for it, we don’t buy it”—officials felt strongly that an investment in new equipment was necessary to grow the business. The addition of a tempering furnace, in particular, enabled the distributor/fabricator to offer its customers a more extensive choice of products. And although it required a major cash outlay, it will save the company money in the long run. “We’re our own largest customer,” said David Dalbke, president. “We have purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of tempered glass products from other sources. Now, we have control and can produce a quality product in a just-in-time delivery fashion.”

At Flat Glass Distributors, Jacksonville, Fla., the decision to invest in capital equipment was part of its effort to “redefine customer service” through improved turnaround times and higher product quality. So far, it’s paying off, said David Cates, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’ve been able to get customers because we’re doing a better job than our competitors,” he said. “It’s all about market share. I don’t get people telling me the economy is getting any better.”

To encourage businesses to invest in new equipment—and banks to lend them the money to do so—the Obama administration has proposed the creation of a $30 billion “Small Business Lending Fund” targeted at community and smaller banks to increase small business lending. In its FY2011 budget, the administration also proposed extending the Recovery Act provision to allow small businesses to immediately write off up to $250,000 of qualified investment, providing an immediate tax incentive to invest in plants and equipment.

If your company has found success in other ways, I’d love to hear about them as I continue to cover industry strategies for staying strong in a weak market. If you have a story to share, please leave a comment or e-mail me at

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, March 1, 2010

Official Washington leaves much to be desired these days.

Here we have the presidency, the House and the Senate all in the hands of the same party, and yet we have a classic case of legislative gridlock. We're even starting to see progressive senators jumping ship, including Indiana's Evan Bayh, who cited partisan bickering and a disturbing lack of progress for his decision to retire.

Frankly, it's probably fortunate for business that our elected officials are mired in the muck. You know Washington.

And then there's the economy. Stuck in neutral, seemingly unable to burst forward due in large measure to weak consumer confidence, a still-sluggish housing market, and commercial banking still climbing out of the ditch of overcapacity, problem loans and tight lending.

We're at a standstill.

It's perfect timing for Alice in Wonderland to arrive in our local theaters. In that wonderful, classic fable, there's a metaphor that could just as easily have been written to describe today's politics: The Red Queen's race through the looking glass.

"Well, in our country," said Alice, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you run very fast, for a long time."

"A slow sort of country," said the Queen. "Somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that."

Sound familiar? Is this what Bayh was talking about when he announced that he'd had it with the "do nothing" pace of Congress?

Indeed, getting from here to there is tougher than usual, for some.

There are several areas, however, where some officials -- especially at the agency level -- are pushing the ball forward, in the name of energy efficiency, and the like. Should they succeed, the results could be extremely costly to you ...

-- A move is afoot to limit the amount of glazing on commercial construction. I am part of a working group trying to head-off limits to the use of glass in the name of daylighting. The regulation, known as ASHRAE 90.1, is likely to come up at the ICC hearings in May. Bob Trainer's clarion call in an earlier blog for the "Got glass" campaign resonates strong.

-- I received an e-mail last week from a program manager in the environmental pollution control division within the state government of California. She was asking for help in gathering some facts and figures on the auto glass segment. It appears they're moving forward with their auto glass glazing requirements that she spoke about last year at an NGA event, which will require mandatory tinting by 2012. While there is mostly opportunity for the industry here, they are looking at requiring all shops to maintain and report on jobs completed within a 2-5-year period. This could increase your administrative costs by 5 to 15 percent.

-- Lead paint rules covering renovation and repair on homes and other structures built prior to 1978 are scheduled to take effect on April 22. How this ever escaped the Bush Administration, I'll never know; but it's clearly fueled by an even more activist EPA. Katie bar the door! Click on this link for more details.

While Congress may be running the Red Queen's race, it appears the agencies have no intention of relenting. At a time when business needs all the cooperation it can get from the government to grow and add jobs, it appears some activists have gotten the opposite message.

That's why now, more than ever, you need to get involved. When you see something objectionable or harmful taking place, respond quickly and proactively. Write your policymakers. Let them know you're watching, and tell them what they need to do better. In this tumultuous election year particularly, they should listen more attentively, even if they are huffing and puffing through the Red Queen's race.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association

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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