Don Pyatt

President, Viracon

Don PyattEducation: 1967, Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.; 1971, Master of Business Administration, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.

June 2000-present, president,  Viracon, Owatonna, Minn.; 1990-2000, group vice president,  Intermet Corp., Troy, Mich., and president, Tool Products, Minneapolis; 1988-90, executive vice president, general manager, Henry Valve Co., Melrose Park, Ill.; 1972-88, marketing analyst, marketing manager, vice president of sales and marketing, plant manager for the Gresen Manufacturing Division, general manager for the Racine Hydraulics Division, Dana Corp., Toledo, Ohio; 1967-72, marketing analyst and plant engineer, Fisher Controls Co., Marshalltown, Iowa

Age, 61; hometown, Easton, Pa.; married, two daughters

Biking, running, rollerblading, hiking

800 Park Drive, Owatonna, Minn. 55060; 800/533-2080,,

What percentage of Viracon’s commercial sales consists of “green” glass products?
In the current list of projects that are LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]-registered, Viracon has supplied glass to approximately 10 percent. In terms of fabricated glass products going out the door that would contribute to LEED requirements, it’s in excess of 80 percent.

Have you seen an increase in demand for such products? What do you attribute this to?
We have clearly witnessed the interest in sustainable building components increase in the last few years. Green building has been a hot button for the last three years. Before that, it wasn’t really talked about. These things tend to be cyclical. The cost of energy is probably the last piece to fall into place that’s really driven the concern in a big way. We also tend to follow the trends coming our way from Europe, where [green building] has been more prominent for quite some time. And now, the architects seem to be getting behind it. The architectural and engineering community has really picked up on it.

How is Viracon responding to architects’ needs for green building materials in terms of new products and/or services?
We are launching some products at the AIA [American Institute of Architects] show [May 3-5 in San Antonio, Texas]. In addition, we’re working on a marketing campaign for sustainable building design. Viracon offers a variety of coated glass products. Our goal with this campaign is to help narrow the focus for the design community, so they can more quickly identify which of our products can help them achieve LEED or green building design. 

Have you seen an influx of Chinese glass in the architectural market? If so, what is your competitive strategy?
Yes, definitely. Perhaps more than seeing the glass itself, we’ve seen Chinese glass in more project specifications. In some cases, the building won’t even be out of the ground yet, and we’ll have already lost the business to a Chinese competitor.

So far, the Chinese [companies] are really competing on the basis of a lower price. Initially at least, we’re going to try to compete more on the basis of quality and service.

A big part of that is our new manufacturing facility in the Southwestern part of the United States, which is where we have seen the most activity from the Chinese competitors. The justification for that new facility was in part to allow us to better compete against that threat. The facility [was] scheduled to start production April 9 and will give us an incremental production capacity increase of roughly 15 percent.

What changes can we expect to see at Viracon following its recent exit from the automotive replacement glass market?
In Owatonna, Minn., we have various manufacturing facilities, one of which has been dedicated to the automotive replacement glass business. We are converting that space to additional capacity for Viracon architectural glass. The visible signs of that [effort] are a new tempering furnace and an insulating glass line.

In what ways would you like to see Viracon’s role in the marketplace evolve over the next two to three years?

In terms of the nonresidential construction cycle, we have another two to three years at minimum for [it] to run [its course]. Over the last roughly two years, we’ve had a number of initiatives aimed at additional capacity, so, we expect to see considerable growth over this part of a very favorable cycle.