Monday, April 30, 2007

The AIA Show

A big week from the supply side as the AIA show starts up Thursday in San Antonio. I will be there and will post anything that is newsworthy or interesting. Going in, it should be interesting to see how the Architects are feeling about the economy-with the big question- Are you busy? Outside of that, it will probably be a very "Green" show as everyone tries to "outgreen" their competition. I'm half tempted to even tell people my blog can get you LEED points... heck it wouldn't be a major stretch considering the way that people are trying to promote and position themselves as "green" with absolutely no clue of what it means.

- Elsewhere

- Is another Aluminum supplier for sale? Hot off of US Aluminum finally being sold, was a USGNN headline about Alcoa looking to sell off certain divisions. Could Kawneer be one of them? The article did not say... but Kellogg's or K Mart could snap up Kawneer and not have to change the logo- at least it would be instant synergy! Seriously though, the aluminum side continues to have instability when it comes to ownership as it seems mostly everyone has either been sold or been for sale in the last 2 years- so it could be possible.

- Great article on the fad of flipping houses and how that fad is now pretty much history. To read it- click here. If your too busy to read it, the article basically says that people in cities like Vegas and Miami jumped on the housing boom for the sheer profit side and now they are getting beat down... bad. To the tune of a 47% rise in foreclosures last month. Given that info, its another indicator of why the residential side of the industry is struggling.

- Speaking of AIA, we'll see if our pals from the NFRC will be there filling the architects heads with sweet nothings about how great their programs are. After all supposedly the NFRC is "seeking" out the AIA for input on their efforts. Which brings up the article by Les Shaver in the current issue of USGlass. An interesting note in there was the whole “cost” angle and the fact the NFRC is going to try and address that glaring issue. To date, while we are battling on so many fronts, the cost of the program has never been presented by the NFRC, so if that comes in high it could just add another cantankerous log on the fire. My expectation is the costs to be high because there’s a feeling out there that our side of the industry is flush with cash- just ready to support programs like this. Seriously. I was told by 2 people on the other side of this issue that exact statement. Its amazing, so every time a public company on our side of the ledger announces their results, people from the test labs and consulting firms, take that as an indication of “they can afford it- after all its for the good of the public”

- One China note- and non glass at that... did you see that the Chinese are hoping to manipulate the weather at the 2008 Olympics to be held there? Yes the scientists there feel they can "force" the rain ahead of the events, so the Sky's will be clear for the games. I mean everyday they amaze me just a little bit more.

Sorry no video this post- I will have one later in the week- but just as an update the little boy that was hurt during the Colorado State football game is OK- he got stitches. I am still amazed he is OK- that kid to a brutal hit! (See below post for video if you missed it)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Sad Day

Sorry gang, not going to do a normal post this week. While I have plenty to cover, I honestly can't get into it with the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech still fresh.

As I have noted before in posts and articles, its times like these that makes you think twice when you use terms in our industry like "life or death"- as what we do is nothing of the sort, and when things like Monday's misery hits- now thats the real deal.

One glass related note... as my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved at Va Tech, a special mention to a very good man and friend, Bill Rooks of ACH (Visteon). Bill's daughter goes to Virginia Tech and thankfully is OK, but I can only imagine the pain she is going through, and the fear that Bill and his wife had to deal with while all this was going down. Bill, I hope you and Erin and the rest of the family are hanging in there the best you can.

So next week I'll be back to my snarky, sarcastic self. Until then take care-

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quarter 1 In Review

The 1st quarter of 2007 was pretty uneventful overall, but still some interesting things went down and now’s the time to review. In trying to avoid being like a “Best of” blog entry, I do try and put an updated spin on things.

Industry headlines:
Glassweek in Sarasota was a strong event, though it is the last “Stand Alone” Glassweek since that event and BEC will combine next February in Vegas. How will the new event do? Going to be interesting- Glassweek is the best technical gathering in this industry and BEC is by far the best networking environment- so hopefully the two will mix like Chocolate and Peanut Butter and make a great Peanut Butter Cup of an event.

Chinese Cha Cha’s:
China continues to be an issue- last week’s entry on China got me several e-mails. The reaction was a mix between:
“How could PPG do this?” and “Stop crying, just because the Chinese are eating your lunch doesn’t mean they are wrong…”
All I can say to this is… some people just do not get it. I can’t explain why PPG is doing what they do- in the end it will only hurt them as their technology and training will and is being used against them. And as for the Chinese eating MY lunch… um, they are eating EVERYONE’S lunch and dinner. Go to Chicago and see how many jobs have gone Chinese- go to the Southeast and see how many jobs have been sold direct to General’s and Developers… bottom line, Manufacturer, Glazier, or pithy Fabricator, all are in the cross hairs of the communist Chinese.

A side note, front page of the USA TODAY on Tuesday has more interesting news how our government is relating to the China issue. Click Here to read it.

Side note 2 has the TV show "24" switching gears and now Jack Bauer can go after the Chinese- Go get 'em Jack and get a shot in for our industry will ya?

Green is Gold:
More proof of the “Greening” of America this week as both ABC News and Robert Redford jumped on board to push the process. ABC now runs features during their nightly news and Redford is producing a show on the building of Green properties.

Changes, changes changes:
AFG will be AGC NA soon, ACH will become someone else again soon I am sure, Kawneer turned their back on 100 years of recognizability and made an ad agencies life by changing their logo and taking on the same look as Special K Cereal.
US Aluminum got sold begging the question- “If an aluminum company gets sold and they really don’t participate much in the industry, will anyone really care or notice?”

The complete guide to the NFRC is coming soon- I promise- some long flights next week, so plenty of time to think and write.

Ewww the Economy:
A weak start to 2007, especially on the residential side… not the best of time to be a big time window guy eh? Marvin announced cutbacks on hours, and you can safely assume they are not the only ones. On the commercial side some pockets are pretty weak, but others holding strong. From all indications 07 will still turn out solid but people are hedging their bets for 2008 that is for sure. Right now there have been a few auctions of some residential window manufacturers, if commercial turns as weak, and the Chinese continue their march, the commercial side may experience the same effect.

The Blog Effect:
Traffic here has been mind blowing and in some cases comical. I’ve had visits from Nigeria, France, Brazil, Israel and yes even China. The message boards at USGlass are picking up some speed and for some people has shown to be a very helpful resource.

Sorry about last week- I did not realize that the wayward first pitch from the Mayor of Cincinnati was removed from You Tube. If you missed, you missed a classic. If you have any favorites you run into feel free to forward it to me. This week in honor of Global Warming… Snowmobile racing on grass… ah what we can expect in the future once all the snow is gone….

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Burning Up The Net

My plan was to do a review of the first quarter of 2007, but in the last few days the internet provided me with too much material to not make comment on. So the quarter in review must wait, it’s time to dig into some of these interesting tidbits.

- On USGNN on Tuesday, the 4th item was a note that China based glass fabricator Xinyi Glass reported a net profit increase of almost 50% in FY 2006. My goodness does the government still need to subsidize them then? And that Tariff that was noted in my previous post will do nothing to them with numbers like this. By the way, in North America, Xinyi Glass works through the name of XYG Glass and uses an HQ of British Columbia, but bottom line is their material is still made in one of their 5 facilities in Communist China.

- On Monday, the lead item on USGNN was the note on the US reaching a trade agreement with South Korea. It’s also the question of the week on USGNN (feel free to opine on the USGlass message boards). There’s no way this can be as bad as the Chinese debacle right?

- Also on line this week, a top weather researcher came out and stated that 2007 should be a very “active” hurricane season. Forecaster William Gray is calling for 17 named storms, with 5 being major storms. The probability of a major hurricane hitting land this year is rated at 74%. Gray’s team from Colorado State University (which begs to ask, how many hurricanes hit ole CSU?) notes that last years dire predictions of major hurricanes were thrown off by El Nino. Now with El Nino gone, the activity may be more severe. I guess we will see what happens, but it will be interesting to see if a major hurricane hits one of the areas where the hurricane codes have been ignored or fought against. There is no better evidence for strong hurricane codes than South Florida. When Hurricane Wilma made mince meat of the region 2 years ago, phone lines and electrical were a mess but the hurricane glass and aluminum came shining through.

- Lastly on line, back to China, and a piece on North American Architects doing work in China. PPG commissioned a survey that showed 21% of US architects are doing work in China right now and the article also included a note that China has an intense focus on energy conservation and energy prices. Wow I think the NFRC needs to set up shop there- ASAP. But seriously it should come as no surprise that PPG is in the middle of this. Anyone who follows the Chinese influence on our industry knows that PPG has been “sleeping with enemy” for years. You want to get a flavor for what I mean, check out this classic 2005 article from China Daily.
In any case, it’s depressing that the technology that is allowing the Chinese to take work from glaziers, fabricators and other manufacturers is being given to them on a silver platter. Shame.

Before we get to the video choice of the week… it was opening day in baseball this week.. ah life is back to normal… I seriously feel complete… anyway the World Series will be between the Red Sox and Pirates, (if you are still reading this you just spit out your coffee that I predicted the Pirates… that is a late April Fools Day joke- my real choice is actually the Braves) with the Sox winning it… As for the Video, the mayor of Cincinnati threw out the first pitch and well nerves must have gotten to him, because this went very wrong…. Check out the reaction of Eric Davis (the guy due to catch the pitch) his face is priceless….

And by the way conggrats to the "Gator Nation" for winning the NCAA...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Some Good News

Got a tip on this article below from Jim Fairley... very interesting that the Communist Chinese take one on the chin. Could this be coming our way too? Though with Chinese material sometimes selling for more than 25 to 30% below North American market, even a tariff may not slow them.

I'll talk more on this on my weekly post later this week.

White House Slaps Tariffs On Chinese Paper

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2007
(AP) The Bush administration, facing increasing anger over soaring trade deficits, announced Friday it would impose sanctions against Chinese paper imports, opening up a new avenue for beleaguered American manufacturers to seek government protection.

The action, announced by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, reverses 23 years of U.S. trade policy by treating China, which is classified as a nonmarket economy, in the same way other U.S. trading partners are treated in disputes involving government subsidies.

The decision involved a case brought by NewPage Corp., a Dayton, Ohio-based paper company. It contended that its coated paper, used in printing glossy catalogues and annual reports, was facing unfair competition from imports from Chinese companies receiving improper subsidies from the Chinese government.

Commerce imposed penalty tariffs ranging from 10.9 percent to 20.4 percent on imports of glossy paper from China. The tariffs will take effect next week on a preliminary basis and will become final after a further Commerce review is completed in June.

The action was being closely watched by many other American companies, from steel to furniture, that were battered in recent years as Chinese imports flooded into the country.

U.S. companies have always been allowed to file antidumping cases, seeking penalty tariffs on the grounds that the Chinese products were being sold in the United States below cost.

But with Friday's action, they will also be able to seek penalty tariffs, known as countervailing duties, on the basis of improper government subsidies — everything from favorable loans from state-owned Chinese banks to direct government support.

"The United States today is demonstrating its continued commitment to leveling the playing field for American manufacturers, workers and farmers," Gutierrez said in announcing the decision.

The Chinese government criticized the administration decision.

"This action of the U.S. side goes against the consensus reached by the leaders of both countries to resolve disputes through dialogue," said Wang Zinpei, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, quoted by the Xinhua News Agency. "China strongly requires the U.S. side to reconsider the decision and make prompt changes."

Daniel Porter, a Washington attorney representing the Chinese government, said no decision had been made yet on whether to appeal a federal court ruling on Thursday that gave the Commerce Department the go-ahead to proceed with the sanctions.

The decision by Commerce represented the latest effort by the administration to adopt a tougher approach to Chinese trade practices as the administration faces growing pressure from Democrats, who now control both the House and Senate.

Earlier this year, the administration filed a case against China with the World Trade Organization alleging that China was violating WTO rules by giving its companies improper subsidies for production of steel, paper and other products.

U.S. lawmakers, businesses and unions praised the action in the NewPage case.

In a joint statement, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., called the sanctions a "long overdue change in policy." They said they intended to push forward with legislation that would explicitly change U.S. law to make sure the Commerce actions will withstand any court challenges.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steel Workers union, said the Commerce action was welcome news for workers at 22 paper mills in 13 states who produce the glossy paper covered by the sanctions. Gerard's union represents 90 percent of the work force in the U.S. coated paper industry.

Gilbert Kaplan, a Washington attorney representing NewPage, said the Commerce action reflected the reality that China as a major power in the global economy "should not be exempt from the laws that ensure fair trade."

When the Bush administration made it known last year that it was willing to consider cases against China involving government subsidies, it was seen as an effort to bring more pressure to bear on the Chinese to adhere to the rules of the WTO, which China joined in 2001.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is leading an effort to pressure China to let its currency rise in value against the dollar. American manufacturers contend that China is devaluing its currency by as much as 40 percent to give the country unfair trade advantages.