On the Road with USGlass

Music to My Ears

Wait, what’s that I hear? Can you hear it, too? It’s been so long since my ears have been pinged by it, I barely recognized it. But I hear it loud and clear, and now that I do, I want it to play on and on. What’s that sound? It is the sound of major business being done. And it’s music to my ears.

If I had to sum up the Glassbuild America trade show going on right now in Las Vegas in one word, I’d say “solid.” It’s a solid, strong show and, given the economy we’ve all lived through these past few years, that is a better-than-expected event. There is a lot of business being done here.

The GBA show is really two different shows. In the odd years, it visits Atlanta and the attendance seems more fabricator- and machinery-driven. In the even years, the Vegas location tends to attract more retailers while the machinery presence is smaller because the glasstec show in Dusseldorf follows just a few weeks later.

Two years ago in Vegas the atmosphere was more akin to the employee lunchroom on a day it was going to announce massive layoffs. “We are still here. Are you going to be okay?” was the start to most conversations.

Not so this year. “We had it sold within three hours on the first day,” said Robin Donker of Unruh Fab’s massive truck. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand bearing fruit,” “We are starting to see signs of life again,” said another machinery manufacturer who preferred I not name him. “We are getting calls from people for whom we prepared quotes three years ago saying ‘hey, can you update that quote and send it over? I think we are ready.’ And we are happy to do so of course.”

While international attendance seemed a bit lower than usual (perhaps glasstec influence again), exhibitors by and large seemed pleased with the traffic, which was generally heavier both mornings than in the afternoons.

Three major trends stood out:

Coatings: 2012 may be the Year of the Dragon but it is the Year of the Coatings at GBA. I’m not talking about batch coats either, but rather those from companies such as Clearshield Technologies Inc., Diamon Fusion and Unelko Corp., among others;

 Solar Integration: meaning not only the appearance of solar glazing companies but of companies that are working to integrate the use of solar into the existing channels to market in the glass and metal industry. Companies such as Solar Innovations and Atlantis Energy Systems Inc. were doing just that. “We want everyone to understand that PVB does not always need to be square or flat or framed, it is very, very flexible,” said the company’s Robert Gardner.

The Next Generation: Nice to see a whole new crop of children coming to the show for the first time. Even heard Steve Perilstein brought his son but I have not had a chance to meet him yet.

The Non-Glass GlassBuild: GBA is always such an enigma in this area as just about half of the primary glass manufacturers choose to exhibit. As in previous years, a good amount of glass and metal fabricators were missing as well. Indeed the number of companies in the fenestration industry is far greater than in the traditional “glass” industry.

Today’s Best Booth Winner: Saint-Gobain, which was showing its Swisspacer in an ethereal, artistic booth that conveyed a strong identity in a artistic way—all through glass.

The Not-So-Bad Bad: The show garnered good reviews from attendees and exhibitors alike. But the headquarters hotel, not so much. A lot has changed at the property that was the Las Vegas Hilton two years ago. Now known simply as The Las Vegas Hotel, it is in the middle of some serious financial challenges and the stress showed. But all in all, if that is the worst, that’s not too bad.