Bittersweet

I have always liked the word “bittersweet.” It’s both the taste and emotional equivalent of “happy and sad” at the same time. And that’s what this blog is today—bittersweet.

First the happy. It was a real treat to visit the Ironworkers mid-Atlantic training center last week. The facilities are impressive and the teachers and staff enthusiastic. Under the auspices of Local 5, the training facility teaches beginning ironworkers on a variety of equipment. This was the first time I had seen mock-ups of a unitized system used for training purposes. The facility also sported a variety of other types of training equipment including a unitized curtainwall mock-up, a two-story structural steel mock-up, a revolving door installation, and 30 welding booths for training.

Up to 30 apprentices can work on welding in these designated stations.

Ironworkers work on their apprenticeship by training on different mock-ups.

The part that gave me the most joy was watching the apprentices in action. We saw a diverse variety of them—all totally engaged in practical learning. You can read more about it here.

It’s nice to see the glass and metal industry renew itself that way.

But bittersweet always tempers the happy with the sad and profoundly sad is what I felt when I saw the notice of the bankruptcy of Consolidated Glass Holdings, the owner of J.E. Berkowitz. We covered it here. Like me, you may also remember the legacy company that it was and the family who ran it before its sale in 2016. It is a part of our collective industry history and it is a hard hit to see and understand.

Over the years, almost every person from private equity has assured me of the same thing. Usually they are doing so in response to my comment that the glass industry will be different from many in which they have invested. They patronizingly tell me that it will not, that business is business and that their investment target will be run better than it has ever been run before. With some exceptions, I am still waiting for that to happen. Usually when the bean counters end up running one of this industry’s companies, it does not end well.

And that always makes me sad.

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