From GlassBuild America: GEF opens with 'State of the Industry' panel discussion

Sahely Mukerji
September 30, 2009
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : MEETINGS AND EVENTS

The fourth annual Glazing Executives Forum took place Sept. 30 at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, as part of GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, at the same convention center.

One hundred and nineteen participants attended the forum, 50 of whom registered in the last two weeks, said Dave Walker, vice president, Association Services, National Glass Association, McLean, Va., the organizer of the show.

Henry Taylor, Architectural Services Team manager, Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga.; Rod Van Buskirk, president, Bacon and Van Buskirk, Champaign, Ill.; and Newton Little, executive vice president, Ace Glass, Little Rock, Ark., took part in the "State of the Industry" panel discussion that kicked off the event.

Taylor shared a chart showing "non-residential building contracts awarded trend 1970-2013." In 2010, the square feet awarded is 993.2 million, a 40.5 percent decline since 2007's 1,667.9 million square feet. "We're still anticipating a 15 percent drop next year," he said. " A potential for a strong recovery’s out there if all the projects go through, but recovery’s going to be slow."

For the short term, Taylor advised companies to focus on core competencies and manage cash flow with a "cash is king" mind-set. For the long term, think about technology, he said. "Now is the time to upgrade or improve technology," he said. "Also take a look at your key positions and make sure you have the right people in the right position. Look at your facility, your process flow, now is the time to change those. You won’t have the time in 2011.

"Expand your market opportunities," he added. "Is there another adjacent market with easy transition and low entry cost? Transition cost now is going to be lower now than in 2011."

Van Buskirk was up next. "According to a Tischman Construction official on a national TV program show, $3.5 trillion worth of projects started in 2007," he said. "So, we have too much capacity, and consequently, not as much need for new construction.

"The property values we saw prior to this recession, those sale prices may not come back, Van Buskirk said. "Too many properties are already on the market. The ones out there will be low prices. All that may contribute to holding down new construction even more."

Other than less work, this downturn will eliminate weaker players, Van Buskirk said. "Expect many of your key business relationships to change as a result of some key manufacturers and contractors going out of business. Work at developing new relationships. Think about slow growth or no growth for some time and think about survival.

"I encourage companies to consider buying or merging with other firms to, first, become financially strong, and to, second, become strategic geographically," Van Buskirk added.

Little advised company owners to "hang tight." It could be a lot worse, he said. "Plan your work, work your plan. There’s a need out there; find that need and attack it. It may be something new or old.

"You need to perform,"Little said. "Meet your labor estimates and, hopefully, beat them. Now is the time to perform as near perfection as possible. You’ve got to cover your net.

"Most of us are like a rubber-band," Little added. "We’re only good when stretched. You can be shown the how-to or you can learn the how-to, so stretch yourself."

Taylor left attendees with: "It will get better; will you be better? Leaders emerge not because they survive the storm but because they change the rules. Make value changes, change in partnerships. Your reputation in 2011 will sell you more than your price. Be better prepared for the next storm."