Friday, January 2, 2009
Salute glass folks, and welcome to the new year! Looks like we've started the year on a good note. The Dow was back up above 9000 on Jan. 2, its best close in two months. GM, Alcoa, Boeing and Citi were ahead among the 30 blue-chip stocks of the Dow average, raising it 2.94 percent, or 258.30 points, to 9034.69, according to an article in The Washington Post. Only one component, JPMorgan Chase, finished lower, down 18 cents to $31.35.

The S&P;'s 500 index rose 3.16 percent, or 28.55 points, to 931.80, while Nasdaq composite climbed 3.5 percent, or 55.18 points, to 1632.21, according to The Post article.

Last year, the Dow declined 33 percent, its biggest drop since 1931, and the S&P; was down almost 39 percent, its worst since 1937. The Nasdaq was down more than 40 percent for the year.

In Big Three news, on Jan. 1, Chrysler was still waiting for its federal handout, while GM had gotten its first $4 billion in loans, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The loans come from the $700 billion bank rescue plan, approved by Congress in September. GM is spending approximately $33 million a day, based on spending $1 billion per month during the third quarter. That daily amount is likely lower for the fourth quarter as GM has reduced spending on operations, sponsorships, utilities and even office supplies, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

To this positive news, add the new president-elect's rescue plan that intends to create up to 3 million new jobs, provide tax relief to middle-class families and help governors cover the soaring costs of education and Medicaid ... not a bad way to start the new year.

How will you contribute to make this year better? What is your resolution to improve your business and your professional community? Is there a particular problem that the industry needs to tackle more effectively to make this a better year?

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Friday, December 19, 2008
In a February 2007 e-glass poll, 83 percent of industry representatives reported they offer employee incentives such as bonuses. Almost two years later, the U.S. is up to its eyeballs in a recession, with a bleak forecast on the horizon. What can glass companies do to motivate employees when bonuses just aren’t in the budget?

In my elementary school days, my slim allowance money couldn’t quite get me through the holiday shopping season. Macaroni-cover tin cans, and homemade coupon books with promises of hugs and car washes, however, served as cost-free and greatly appreciated gifts. But for cash-strapped companies looking to provide holiday incentives to employees, macaroni art likely won’t cut it.

In its November issue, Fortune magazine asked three business leaders what they do for employees when times are tight.

Laura Sejen, global director, strategic awards for Watson Wyatt, an HR consultancy out of Arlington, Va., said employers should strive to cut back bonuses rather than eliminating them completely. “Start a recognition program that gives spot bonuses based on performance. It’s a low-cost way to reward employees and allows you to be selective in granting awards,” Sejen said.
Jim Weddle, CEO and managing partner of Edward Jones, a brokerage firm out of St. Louis, said his company cuts bonuses when the alternative is layoffs. “I’ve been asking managers to simply tell folks that they’re appreciated,” Weddle said.

Weddle said being upfront and honest about the situation eliminates the surprise. “Explain how they system works, and they’ll get it. Revenues are down, so variable compensation is down too.”

Paul Amos II, president and COO of Aflac, Columbus, Ga., agreed that honesty is the best policy when cutting bonuses. “Tell [employees] via every means possible. First, look them in the eye and tell them. They may not fully absorb the changes, so you need to follow up in writing. And then third, make sure to give employees a forum to ask you questions about the change,” Amos said.

Weddle and Amos said they also get creative with their incentives. “We do little things like add casual days. We hired the Ringling Bros. circus to perform for our associates,” Weddle said. “We also recognize folks by giving them a day off to volunteer for causes like Habitat for Humanity,” Amos said.

Glass Magazine publisher Nicole Harris asked glass business owners what they were doing about end-of-year and holiday bonuses in her January 2009 Publisher’s Notes. She received varied responses, including one from an owner who was still undecided about 2008 bonuses. “We stopped doing a Christmas bonus and are doing—or were doing—a bonus on profit. I am considering eliminating that this year in an effort to conserve cash. We are fortunate that we still have work and have only reduced our staff by one. In an environment where many people are losing their jobs, I think my employees will be understanding.”

So, what are your bonus plans for employees? Hopefully nothing with macaroni.

Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor, fabrication co-editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, December 15, 2008
With Democrats soon to be in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, organized labor has begun to flex its muscles.

At the top of their legislative priority list is the Employee Free Choice Act, better known as the Card Check Bill. This bill could have devastating consequences for glass shops nationwide. Even the smallest shops could be affected.

The bill (H.R. 800, S. 1041) is designed to simplify and short-circuit the long-established union-organizing process. Blocked in the Senate in 2007, labor made support of the bill a litmus test for candidates it backed in the recent elections. You can be sure those elected officials will now be called upon to make good on their pledges of support.

The Card Check Bill will substantially change the process for union organizing, giving organized labor an unfair advantage. Currently, if organizers collect signatures from at least 30 percent of employees in a given bargaining unit, an election by secret ballot is held by the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether to certify the union. The secret ballot ensures that workers will not be intimidated into voting one way or the other, either by management or labor.
The new bill would shortcut the process by certifying the union as soon as a majority of signed authorization cards is collected. No secret ballot. No organizing campaign during which employees can weigh all sides of the issue and make an informed decision. Instead, union organizers would be in a position to potentially bully and coerce employees into signing the card on-site.

That’s hardly what we call “free choice,” as the bill’s formal title would have you believe.

Among other objectionable provisions, the bill would increase penalties for employers who violate union organizing laws. Curiously, penalties on unions would not be increased.

Even companies in Right to Work states will be affected by this law, as organizing campaigns would become cheaper and easier to wage.

The NGA strongly opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, and encourages our members to get informed on the issue and its implications for their business. At a time when some of the finest firms are teetering on the brink of insolvency, largely due to the burdensome provisions of their outdated and uncompetitive labor agreements, this is no time for organized labor to expand its reach.

It’s never too early to write your congressmen, asking that they oppose the bill when it is brought forward. You may also wish to write the editor of your local paper to express your concerns with this ill-advised bill that would unfairly tilt the playing field toward organized labor to the detriment of your business and your local economy.

Most importantly, we encourage our members to keep an open line of communication with their employees, listening to their concerns and addressing them promptly and thoroughly. After all, the best way to avoid a successful organizing campaign is to maintain a positive relationship with your workers.

—David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association
Monday, December 8, 2008
A day after a CNN poll revealed that 61 percent of Americans oppose bailing out the Big Three automakers, executives of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC appeared for a second consecutive day of hearings, Dec. 5, before the House Financial Services Committee. The executives testified before the Senate Banking Committee Dec. 4.

The members of the House committee, unwilling to approve taxpayer money to bail out the three, suggested alternatives, including a much smaller emergency transitional amount or a "protected restructuring" under government auspices, according to a Dec. 5 article in The Washington Post.

According to The Post article, in the hearings, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the committee chairman, said “a lot of mistakes were made," referring to what he described as poor decisions by the auto industry in the past. "The consequence of all those mistakes is that the country is to some extent held hostage.”

One among those mistakes particularly stands out: GM mocking global warming and stubbornly cranking out SUVs. Should Darwinism prevail: Adapt or die?

The “mistakes” continued even up until a couple of weeks ago. During their first unsuccessful appearance on Capitol Hill, the Big Three head honchos flew in on their corporate jets. In stark contrast, Richard Wagoner, chairman and CEO of General Motors, Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford, and Robert Nardelli, chairman and CEO of Chrysler, drove or carpooled hybrid or fuel-cell vehicles from Detroit to the December hearings.

On the same note, Chrysler's corporate Web site now touts the following sentence in large type, in the color--you guessed it--green: "It's not a bailout to keep us from failing. It's a loan to help us succeed."

All said and done, Congressional Democrats and the White House still couldn't reach a consensus on how to handle the urgent request for $34 billion in bridge loans—$7 billion for Chrysler, $9 billion for Ford and $18 billion for GM. Democrats and Republicans continued to disagree on where the money should come from, how much should be paid upfront and what kind of conditions to impose. And even though the news of the worst job losses in the U.S. in 30 years--533,000 in November--added urgency to the Big Three's appeal, it still was not good enough for Congress to reach a decision.

Now, I am not saying that the Big Three should not get any loans; given the job losses and the state of the economy, it's a no-brainer that something needs to be done to help the companies stay afloat. But should they get the money without any strings attached? I'm curious to know your thoughts, especially the auto glass repair and replacement folks out there, whose businesses could be directly/indirectly affected by this decision: What would you do with the Big Three? Would you give them the money unconditionally? Not give them a dime? Or give them a lesser amount with conditions, such as producing fuel-efficient cars and serious restructuring within the companies?

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, December 1, 2008
Black Friday provided some surprising and much needed good news for the U.S. economy—retail sales went up! According to a Dec. 1 Washington Post article, Black Friday sales grew 3 percent to $10.6 billion, and online shopping sales for the long Thanksgiving weekend reached $41 million, or about $372.57 per person, up 7.2 percent from the same period last year.

Despite the weekend’s good news, economists forecast tough overall market conditions for 2009. According to a Nov. 4 forecast from CNN economists, the recession will continue through the first three months of 2009; the overall economy will shrink about 0.1 percent in the first quarter and then begin to rebound slightly; and unemployment could climb to 7 percent or 8 percent by the end of the year.

How is your company coping with the tough economic environment? Has business slowed? What are you doing to stay on top?

Respond—anonymously, if you prefer—in the comment section of this blog, or e-mail me at, or Jenni Chase at

Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor, retail glass co-editor, Glass Magazine
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
When looking for a little extra motivation in these trying times, sometimes the right movie and/or book can do the trick.

One film that always works for me is The Untouchables.

In one dramatic scene, Sean Connery (playing a gritty Chicago cop) and Kevin Costner (as Elliot Ness) are meeting in a Catholic church. They're debating how to address the Mafia's recent change in tactics, specifically its willingness to shed blood more liberally to achieve its criminal objectives. In other words, the Mafia had just changed the rules of the game, and the FBI was going to have to adapt to the new reality. Sound familiar? As the scene reaches its climax, Connery's character looks at Elliott Ness and asks, "How far are you prepared to go?"

As you know, the rules of the economic game have changed recently. My, how they've changed!

But if you're like me, you believe every problem has its solution. Now don't misunderstand; I'm not trying to sugarcoat your problems or mine. Indeed, every situation is different. As I've found in discussions with several NGA members, many glass shops are adjusting to their new economic realities by branching out into new segments, and doing quite well. Some are finding tougher sledding.

We here at the NGA are adapting our business model by exploring new market opportunities, improving our service and innovating like never before. For example, we recently announced a strategic alliance with Architectural Testing Inc. to extend our state-of-the-art training programs -- notably -- to the retail window and door market.

One quality that all successful people share is the willingness to meet challenges head-on. Are you conveying that attitude to your staff? Or are you leaving them to wonder what your plan is...or even if you have a plan at all?

NGA members know it is better to prepare than repair. Whatever segment you serve, you understand that the cost of fixing a job done poorly is high. It can turn a profit into a loss in no time flat. The same lessons apply in our role as managers and leaders.

In short, now is the time for leaders to lead.

Looking for some added support and guidance?

Read John Maxwell's "The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player." Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel gave a copy to each member of his staff prior to the season as mandatory reading. I just finished it on my trip out to Vegas for GlassBuild America. Powerful stuff. Much like The Untouchables, it really gets your juices flowing to overcome obstacles.

One last shameless plug. (I know... I know...) Whatever you do, especially if you’re an auto glass retailer, get some added fuel for these challenging times by attending the 2009 NGA Auto Glass Conference and Executive Forum You'll find a world of great ideas and insights there – on leadership, strategy, technical excellence, you name it. Feb. 18-20 in Orlando.

I’ll even throw in the good weather!

—David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association
Monday, November 17, 2008
I attended the Protective Glazing Council Annual Symposium Nov. 11-13 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va., where the driving concern seemed to be the “trend of complacency” in the industry. It’s been seven years since the last catastrophic terrorist attack in the United States, and the government’s focus has shifted from security to green and sustainability. This change in priorities is working at the detriment of the industry, said Brian Pittman, director of marketing and communication, PGC.

The U.S. Green Building Council expects 10 percent of new construction to be green by 2010. And the new president-elect wants 60 percent of new buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030.

With the theme of the symposium “Protective Glazing in a Green World; Sustainability & Protection,” PGC members tried to emphasize that the green movement can go hand-in-hand with security glazing. “Green is an enhancement of protective glazing; they can work together,” Pittman said.

Different presenters also attempted to drive home the same point. “Conflicting requirements for sustainability and security lead to compromises and trade-offs,” said Richard R. Paradis, senior engineer, Steven Winter Associates, Washington, D.C. “Avoid conflict of choosing between sustainable and security goals. Employ a single design strategy to accomplish multiple goals.”

Said Marc LaFrance, technology development manager, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy: “Protective glazings can be very energy efficient and probably a better opportunity to build efficiency into the higher price premium products.”

In a panel discussion, PGC members asked a GSA representative what they can do to interest more government folks in such meetings. Willie Hirano, engineer, Office of Construction Programs, Public Buildings Service, responded that the funding for security projects is down. “It doesn’t help to just push a security product. We need to see the whole window, not parts and fragments, but all the aspects, energy and security,” he said. Down the road, GSA specifications will probably have coordinated energy and security requirements, he added.

Energy efficiency is taking over terrorism concerns for Building Owners and Managers Association members too, said Ron Burton, another panel member, from BOMA, Washington, D.C. “We’re starting to see that buildings labeled ‘sustainable’ get more rent in the market." Energy use is the second largest expense in a building; first is taxes, he said.

PGC needs to become more involved in government relations and reach out to congressmen and senators to educate them, said Bill Yanek, executive director, PGC International. The organization plans to have a Congressional hearing on protective glazing, probably jointly with AAMA and GANA, in the future, he said. The council also will work more closely with BOMA that has a large political committee.

What’s your take on the green vs. security issue? Can they work hand-in-hand or are they mutually exclusive? Drop me a line and let me know.

Click here to read reports from the PGC Annual Symposium.

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, November 10, 2008
It's been a couple of weeks since I returned from Düsseldorf, but I am still digesting the fact that I had the chance to cover the world’s largest glass show. I feel so grown-up in glass age!

The enormity of it hit me while sitting on the plane headed to Düsseldorf and looking at the floor plan of the show. Nine halls? I was going to cover more than 1,300 exhibitors spread over more than 73,000 square meters of net exhibit space? My panic radar was on red. I tried to collect myself thinking about Nicole’s advance pep talk: “Do the best you can, I know you will, and remember, you can’t cover it all.” Nicole hadn't missed a glasstec in more than a decade, but had to cancel this trip at the last minute due to a family emergency. She knew what I was heading into.

“You can’t cover it all.” Invaluable words, as far as glasstec is concerned. Of course, it didn't hit home until I was at the show. As I walked to the fairgrounds from the tram stop the first morning, I remember thinking to myself, “it’s not that bad that I’ll miss my workout the next few days, because if I walk briskly, this hike will tide me over.”

And then I got to the fairgrounds.

It took me a couple of days to orient myself--yes, I am directionally challenged--and then it was a matter of very precise planning to get to places that I needed to get to and at the time specified. For instance, the press office was nearest to Hall 17 and our booth was at Hall 13--long hike; Glaston’s press conference was in Room 1, Conference Center South, and the Messe press meeting was right after at the press center--short hike; meeting with Lisec folks in Hall 17 and a symposium at Hall 11 right after--long hike.

You get the picture. The walk from the tram stop to the fairgrounds was peanuts in comparison to walking the floors.

Eventually, I bettered my sense of direction and knew exactly--down to seconds--how long it would take to walk from one hall to the other. And once I got that down, I couldn’t get enough of the show. I had a hard time dividing my time between symposiums and booths, choosing one symposium over another, and constantly got distracted by the amazing products on the floor while on my way to a particular booth for a meeting. All my meetings took longer than I estimated, and that’s probably just European. They make you sit, have a drink, chat about various issues that don’t have much to do with glass, and by the time you get to their product, it’s time to rush off to another meeting.

At the end of the day, it was an experience of a lifetime to cover glasstec. The products and the technology were mind-boggling, and all that walking reminded me of good old India. We walk a lot in India, but 14 years in this country, and I have gotten spoiled rotten.

And funny thing, even after walking the halls for five days, I had it in me to walk more in the Altstadt, Königsallee or the Kö, and go for a long stroll along the Rhine, up to the harbor, to watch the night skyline of the city. It was almost as cool as the show, but not quite.

"Cool." Now, is that a word a grown-up would use?

Click here to read glasstec coverage.

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Thursday, November 6, 2008
If you look closely, I swear Dow Automotive’s Dale Malcolm bears a resemblance to David Letterman. He certainly did at the International Auto Glass Safety Conference in Las Vegas, where he and industry colleagues Mitch Becker of Abra Auto Body & Glass, Bob Beranek of Automotive Glass Consultants, and Brian Clayton of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass presented their “Top 10 worst things overheard in a glass shop."

10. I have to use this cheap crap; it’s all the insurance company will pay for.

9. My testing shows the body primer works better on the glass than the glass primer!

8. I don’t think the customer will notice that, do you?

7. The glass shop down the street said they have no problem installing over a little rust.

6. I’ve been installing for seven years, and I never remove cowls and I have never had a leaker.

5. Pinchweld primer? We don’t need no stinkin’ pinchweld primer.

4. I’ll be done in a minute ma’am, and you can drive your car right home!

3. I haven’t had a problem…yet.

2. You had rust on your car, so we couldn’t warranty the installation.

1. A-grass, what’s that?

—By Jenni Chase, senior editor, retail and auto glass, Glass Magazine

Monday, November 3, 2008
Remember when "change" and "hope" were just words? When not every one knew the difference between a "hockey mom" and a "pit bull"? When "Maverick" was just a Mel Gibson movie, and William Ayers was not a household name? And, remember when the Dow was nearing 14,000? When Iraq was top of mind for the presidential candidates?

It’s been quite a campaign. And tonight, it will all be over—providing we don’t have a repeat of the hanging chads of 2000. So, what’s next? And, more importantly, how is it going to affect the glass industry?

As the campaign dust settles, the president elect will have an enormous, unenviable job awaiting him. And the decisions the next president makes in the early months of his term will have a huge impact on the country, the world and, yes, even the glass industry.

Earlier this month, Glass Magazine Publisher Nicole Harris posted a blog about the top ten jolts to the glass industry. When the next president takes office, he will have to pay particular attention to Harris’ top three: The decline of the housing market (and now the nonresidential market as well), the corresponding credit and financial crisis and the rise of energy costs.

How will the next president do it? How will he fare? And, how will it affect our industry?

E-mail me, or post your thoughts. And vote, if you haven't already!

Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor, retail glass co-editor, Glass Magazine
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