On the Road with USGlass

Our Quickly Changing Industry

This week, just some random quick thoughts:

1.  In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the glass industry seems to be imploding before our eyes. The bankruptcy (however complex the reasons for it) of Vitro, the large losses announced by Apogee last week, the radical changes in the contract glazing industry and the retirements of many smart industry veterans who decided now is a good time for change including Apogee’s Huffer, California Glass Association’s Donn Harter and the soul of MTH Industries, Lyle Hill*, have led many to wonder if there will be any glass industry left.

The answer is yes, there will be. This is just what happens when you reduce the size of an industry by nearly 40 percent in 18 months.

Implosion is not the word then. The situation is more akin to an earthquake with seismic shifts and the tsunami of change that follows it. So things will be different, very different, but will continue.

We are not an industry of travel agents watching the Internet rise up to do them in. The industry is changing to be sure, but glass is such a unique and flexible material, with ever-increasing choices in performance characteristics, that we will always need companies to make it, fabricate it and install it.

2. *Readers of Hill’s very popular column in USGlass magazine need not worry. Lyle has pledged to continue the column. Here is a small snippet of the conversation I had with him earlier today.

Me: Lyle, though you are retiring from MTH, will you write about the glass industry for us?

Him: You’ve been trying to get me to write about the glass industry for years, but I say why start now? You’ve obviously never read my articles, because you’d see I try hard to write about anything BUT the glass industry most of the time. So I’ll keep on writing my column, yes, but I’m not changing a thing.

(You see what I’m dealing with here.)

3. I just got back from Glass Expo Midwest (check out our photos on Facebook or in our slide show) and Fenestration Day in Indianapolis last week, where I met a great bunch of people from the Midwest states and as far away as Massachusetts, Oklahoma and California. Of all the regions in the country, the Midwest was the last to feel the recession and it will be the last to feel any recovery. Most economic indicators show that we are beginning to trend upward now so, as one attendee put it, it appears we have hit bottom, it’s just a question of how long we are going to have to stay there.

4. We had a number of great educational sessions at Glass Expo Midwest ’11 including one called “What Do Architects Want?” Paul Sternberg of CSO Architects Inc. and Drew White of Axis Architecture & Interiors discussed the best ways to work with the architects, the new types of glass they in which they are most interested and more. They gave some great insights and the question-and-answer segment was particularly informative.

Both panelists were really taken aback by a simple question one of our readers had asked. “Will we ever build big buildings again?” Both gentlemen sat quietly and thought for awhile. “Will we ever build big buildings again?” White repeated softly. “Let me just say I don’t think I will ever draw a big building again in my career,” he said. “We will but it won’t be for a very, very long time,” added Sternberg.

4. I got to do a presentation about e-marketing at Glass Expo Midwest as well, and I really enjoyed doing it, mostly because the audience was so active and involved. We were discussing yellow pages vs. Internet advertising and I shared this clip. Thought you might enjoy it.