Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's wrong with the Residential side?

With the residential side of industry in a virtual free fall, it came as little surprise when I saw that Pulte Homes announced they are cutting 2000 jobs. There’s no question that residential world is being beat up badly. Tuesday night Donald Trump weighed in on it during an interview with Larry King (it was after the important news of Rosie O’Donnell quitting "The View"- wow love the priorities here.) Anyway, “The Donald” blamed new Fed Chief Ben Bernanke. He basically said that interest rates going up and out control are on Bernanke’s watch and that Alan Greenspan would not allow this to happen. When King defended the reasoning behind it saying its to control inflation, Trump blew it off. And amazingly I think Trump has a point, as a homeowner who got seriously burned by an adjustable rate “ARM” mortgage swinging the wrong way, there’s no doubt that is a huge factor in the slowdown. It’s not the only thing, but to me it’s a serious angle and you know what, the recovery may not begin until the rates get under control.


-- Last week’s post got me lots of e-mails asking why I was in such a “bad mood”- Honestly did not realize I was in a bad mood, but evidently my tone was surely taken that way by more than a few.

-- Most of the reaction came about the Chinese angle but before I get to that, I want to talk about my comments regarding AAMA. Yes I was probably too rough and the only reason I admit that was that I did not take into account the countless volunteers who give their time to create standards and develop programs that are helpful to our industry. My frustration with AAMA standing by as NFRC eats them for lunch should have nothing to do with the TRUE volunteer effort of people involved with AAMA. Really thanks need to go to Greg Carney, of GANA who slapped me upside the head and reminded me of the volunteer angle. So while I can pick on the AAMA ad’s and surmise why they are placed, I apologize to the folks who actually get the work done.

-- As for China, there was one post but several e-mails. I addressed the one post with a reply and you can review if you like. The e-mails basically called on me to keep educating and informing but to limit the “attack” nature of my posts. I’ll do the best I can folks, but I am what I am, and this issue is what it is, so I have to call it like I see it.

Moving on….

-- This story (click here) is very interesting… again shows that commercial building is still going strong, smack in the face of a horrible residential market. It’s pretty amazing that the two sectors could be so polar opposite. Thanks by the way to Joe K for the heads up on this one.

-- Another interesting story from the web was that glass pricing in India is dropping despite the fact that Steel and Cement are getting more costly and inflation is on the rise. In fact glass is the only product sector that’s price is DROPPING. I guess there’s so much glass competition over there (and with glass coaters being shipped from US Locations to India as well) that the market is correcting.

-- Saw in this week’s E-Weekly some more China news. (Yes sorry they’ll be no moratorium on China News.. just kinder and gentler… ) There was a story on China starting to have some standards and getting codes in place. Glad their priorities are in order, get the codes done, then worry about human rights. But anyway, the quote about the changes there came from Bipin Shah. Bipin used to work for the NFRC and was at the forefront of their attack on the commercial industry. Bipin now has his own company which last I heard was working for the NFRC. Anyway, Bipin talked about the codes and changes there, and the need for standards. So my thoughts, why doesn’t the NFRC open up an office in Beijing and concentrate on getting the Chinese straight before they try and make a mess of the North American industry. See wouldn’t it be great for them to be the guinea pig in this scenario?

OK, that’s it for this week… but the video comes courtesy of a heads up from sister…. Its Miss USA falling flat on her behind at this past weekend’s Miss Universe pageant. It happens a few seconds into this video and I gotta give her credit, she fell but popped back up and kept working it. I think in every pageant from here on out, the judges should do this unexpectedly to all contestants to test their composure!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mail Bag Time

With this blog growing at such an amazing pace, I’ve been remiss in answering some of the great, interesting and critical comments I have been getting sent to me. While I have personally replied to each one, I think that some of these excerpts deserve airing out in this forum.

So here goes…

So what’s the real story behind the Oldcastle-Cardinal suit?

Quite honestly I have no clue, and after the initial story on USGNN last week, no other news has come out whatsoever. I had several people give me some theories on what the details are, but some of them were even too outlandish for me to run with! Probably the thing that is really confusing everyone is that Cardinal is a residential side supplier (no matter how much they may protest that, it is the truth) and OC is obviously mainly commercial. So the fact that these two play in virtually different pools end user wise, makes it all more baffling.

The articles from China this last week made me want to puke. I can only imagine how pissed you were.

I guess I am beyond the “pissed” mode. I just think it’s amazing that so many people will want to support this angle that can be so detrimental to our lives. Probably the most upsetting was this column (click here) and the line that really made me go nuts.

"We started out with tempered glass, but now we do a lot of pattern glass and some laminated glass," he said. According to Deng, the company has a technical agreement with PPG. (Emphasis mine)

Wonderful. I mean its been well stated here PPG’s support of China, and with now having three certified fabricators there and also helping them technically, they continue to feed, clothe, and bathe the enemy. I’ll put it this way, by empowering the communist Chinese with knowledge, all that is happening is speeding up the process of putting more North Americans and North American companies out of business. By the time PPG figures this out they’ll have sold their glass division anyway, so does anyone over there care?

I am lost on this whole “green” thing, it just seems like a scam to me.

I can see how people may feel that way, its not the easiest explained set up and glass and aluminum really do take a backseat to waterless urinals and bike racks. But bottom line is “green” living is here to stay and it’s the focus of virtually every decision-maker out there. In fact did you see that all New York City cabs will go “green” by 2012? To me that’s an amazing point proving that green is here to stay and more. Now the big question is, did they mean every cab will use “green” fuel avenues or will every passenger turn “green” from the wild/smelly/bizarre ride they encounter inside the cab.

Have you seen the ad’s that AAMA has been running lately?

Yes I have seen them and they fascinate me. Its funny, someone over there must’ve realized that during this whole NFRC adventure that AAMA’s reputation was basically damaged beyond belief. When the NFRC thing bowed its head, we’d go to customers and explain to them what was happening. A majority replied along the lines of “Well if its like an AAMA thing we’re not worried” so that was strike one. Strike two is that AAMA actually does work for the NFRC, so a lot of us view AAMA as willing to allow the NFRC to do whatever they want, because they don’t want to lose their gig. (And I have been told that AAMA’s deal with NFRC precludes them from competing with NFRC). So what you are left with is an organization that has no teeth, and is trying to re-establish relevance in a marketplace that is very leery right now about policing and certification groups. All that said, I don’t think AAMA will be inviting me to speak anytime soon- but it is what it is.

Why do you worry about China so much and not about India? They are helping kill our auto industry white collar by taking all of the engineer and call center jobs.

I guess your second part is partly my answer. Right now glass wise India is no where even close to China. What I don’t get is why China doesn’t just set up shop in India. But as for the reasons, its simple, the communist Chinese push is on here, mainstream companies and projects are using them, so obviously that’s the focus. If that’s shortsighted then so be it.

What’s your call on the Stanley Cup?

Its going to be an interesting series, very contrasting styles. Anaheim has those big space clogging Defensemen, while Ottawa has those skilled quick scorers. I think it comes down to the Goaltending though and for that I like the Ducks to win in 6. Plus I was told by friends at Trulite that people from Toronto (and Leaf fans in general) never root for Ottawa, so I have to stand behind them on that.

Which Presidential candidate will be best for trying to stem the China stuff?

More research needs to be done on this, and I will answer this one more in depth in the coming weeks. I think it’s an issue that both parties need to have answers on that’s for sure.

With your travels is the economy good, bad, ugly- what do you see?

Pockets of the country are doing well, most are decent and Michigan is simply disastrous. I did see a note online that shows that 2008 the residential window side will start upticking soon. How come I have a feeling that the large window guys have a clock ticking backwards to 08 in anticipation of that? Regardless the salad days of 2005 on that side of the industry is loooooong gone.

Ok that's it for this week... our video comes from the world of TV news and the classic no microphone on the reporter, but the best is the look of the guy holding the new mic. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Heavyweight Battle

Obviously the big news from the week that past was the lawsuit filed by Cardinal IG against Oldcastle. I mean we are talking heavyweight fight here. Now I have to be honest here though, when I read the suit info on USGNN, (Click Here) I have absolutely no idea of what it all means and what specifically Oldcastle is being accused of doing. Cardinal obviously feels pretty confident that its patents and property have been breached, or else there’s no way they’d file a suit in Federal Court. This may be one to pull up a seat and watch- and it will probably be better than the Mayweather-De Lahoya Fight that was supposed to save boxing. Hopefully more details will come out so I can comment, but until then we’ll sit back and anxiously await. Oh and a side note, in the past Oldcastle has used the firm of the former Solicitor General of the United States Ted Olson- so I’ll be curious if those guys will be taking this one on too.


- Saw Spiderman 3 this weekend- actually a pretty good movie really. The glass and glazing angle? Tons and tons of glass get broke in this movie, curtainwalls destroyed, storefronts demolished and even glass jars and bottles broken (that’s for the Glassbuild portion of the audience). I swear between real and computer generated breakage there had to be a good couple hundred thousand feet broken. So we now know if the commercial building economy starts to falter we need Spiderman to come to our cities and fight, because he’s verrrry good for business.

- And while we are on pop culture, on of my favorite shows ended their season this past weekend. "Survivor", who’s season started with a bossy architect, ended by announcing that next year, it’s competition will take place in….. CHINA…. Wonderful, even my favorite shows are ended up with the communist Chinese. Should be interesting though, having a show about survival in a country that pretty much ignores human rights or environmental records.

- And on that front, great line from “24” this week:

“Within a decade they will have surpassed this country in every way”- Phillip Bauer telling his grandson the reason they are moving to… CHINA. And by the way I think he was talking glass and aluminum…

- Hurricane Season got off to an earlier than normal start this past week- I wonder if the experts who are predicting a dire season will be right. My take last week on the lawyer and his column on possible Florida statutes elicited a decent amount of feedback. I was surprised at how many people felt the lawyer was right (obviously ignoring some of his more bizarre comments) and that a statute like that was wrong. My renewed take on that is I see nothing wrong with the statute, the blame needs placed on the insurance companies- the statute makes sense because it protects people and property. Unfortunately this is a fact of life, the weather pattern is brutal and to be honest any sane home owner should WANT Shutters or Hurricane Impact Glass in their structure. The fact that the government is possibly asking for it is not a bad thing- they are simply giving these homeowners the answers to the test. The problem is the insurance companies should be stepping up to the plate and incentivising the homeowners instead of damaging them.

- This week’s video is a humorous piece from Saturday Night Live… with a look at how big companies make decisions… (no clue why 2 videos are there and I can't get rid of either!)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lawyers and Insurance Companies- Oh Joy!

Earlier this week USGNN ran an article written by a lawyer from Florida for his local paper on the upcoming push to have all condos put in hurricane resistant material. This statute would even include existing condos in making them get up to speed to properly protect their property. Parts of the article I agreed with- I can't stand insurance companies and what they did in Florida after the last natch of hurricanes (and especially in Mississippi and Louisiana) was criminal. People paid good money for many years to these companies and when they needed them the most, the insurance giants pleaded poverty or left town all together. In Florida's case, the insurance industry basically bugged out, forcing thousands into terrible situations- some that were mentioned in the piece. However where he loses me is at the end when he complains about these statutes being pushed for the profit motive of the impact material providers. Now that's comical! With all due respect to Kim Mann, who is my all time favorite lawyer, since when can a lawyer complain about someone else's profit motives! Last I look we don't bill by the call/e-mail/minute like some of our nation's finest legal eagles. But seriously, I love the argument that protecting property with superior material is bad because maybe, just maybe another hurricane won't come through. Anyway the column has more than a few holes and I could go on and on- but instead, if you missed it click here and read and react. I may take this on in more detail next week.. or maybe not.


- My brother is in Las Vegas at the Kitchen and Bath Show and he reported the frustrating sight of rows and rows of Chinese companies showing their wares. While the Delta's and Kohler's may be the leaders, the communists are growing here to and as evidenced by my brother they are taking a very large footprint in trying to take a bite out of that industry too.

- Speaking things Chinese related- I watched the documentary Wal Mart - The High Cost of a Low Price this weekend. All I can say is wow. When your done with that one you really find it difficult to ever shop there again. While obviously the piece was slanted, it brought up some amazing points regarding Wal Mart's version of health care and their predatory efforts in the small markets that they some times look to move into. An interesting rental none the less.

- More proof of "Green" growth. Just out this week, a declaration that 80 schools on the books to be built in California by 2012 will meet some sort of Green certification. You think we can start with non VOC emitting paint?

- Lastly, lost in the shuffles of so many other items in my life, is the upcoming GANA CGEC meeting in Atlanta. This 2 day conference is for project managers from the glazing side of the business and has a very strong agenda. Unfortunately it is next Thursday and Friday, so not a lot of heads up. So if your signed up, you'll enjoy, if not and you can make plans on short notice- go for it. I gotta do a better job of keeping my calendar of events!

The video of the week comes from one of my wife's favorite channels. Its one of the Home Shopping Channels and our guy is trying to show how to use their new ladder... and he is just not real coordinated....

Oh and since I know my mom actually checks this blog... Happy Mothers Day Mom and a special Happy Mother's Day and congrats to Tara Taffera of DWM and my first editor at USGlass. She just had baby number 3 this past week... hope Mom and baby and entire family are well!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wrapping Up AIA 2007

Well 2007's version of the AIA show is now history... and the next show on tap was the aforementioned GlassBuild America in September. (If you missed that post, its a few below this one- and it features witty banter on the new inclusion of glass bottles and jars to the show floor)

As for the AIA wrap....

- Rumors about next years show floor being worse and the show and seminars being in separate buildings is false. The show floor will be the traditional rectangle with an up/down flow. However there's not a lot of hotels around this convention center, so get ready to ride some buses! And as was noted elsewhere on the net, somehow riding a big gas guzzling bus is not exactly the greatest "green" example.

- I did get to ask several architects about the NFRC's commercial plans. And as expected none of them knew a thing about it. Tellingly all felt that their AIA documents clearly cover their specifications in a court of law and were not interested in extra steps or costs. Especially in light of all of them chasing LEED points, as one told me "I need more hurdles like that like I need a hole in the head" Amen brother. I did tell that specific architect he controls it as the famous quote from NFRC Board Member Gary Curtis, made in Atlanta 2005- "if the architects don't buy into this, we can shut off the lights and go home" and his comment was "Shut 'em off"

- A tough scene for me at the airport on Sunday as I watched a young soldier leave his wife at the gate. He was heading eventually back to Iraq and it was a very emotional scene. He was probably no more than 20. His wife was crying steadily, not hysterical, but close and it really was a tough one to deal with. So no matter how you feel about the war, there is no question that the soldiers deserve our support and prayers and their families back here at home deserve the same.

- On the plane home it was filled with architects who just attended. Made me think that its a matter of time before AIA starts to allow chartered flights and you can give CEU's on the flight down. Now that would be a captive audience! Can you imagine an architect having to not avoid you for 3 solid hours? Amazing! And no believe it or not, I did not attempt to bother any of these folks on my flight home- I was tempted though- as the principal of one of the biggest firms of the US was sitting across from me, but I decided to let him be.

The video and more industry news on my regularly scheduled post later this week.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Amazing Show Floor

Well the AIA show is off and running and there’s plenty to talk about.

The attitude of the attendees is very good. Especially the three following groups:

Designers involved with....



Military bases

All 3 groups were easy to recognize because they were the ones who were carrying the most info and stopping and smiling everywhere they went.

So far the feeling is that the commercial segment will stay strong for a while- which is a good sign- at least judging from the folks I talked with they are putting up a very confident front.

As for the show itself, the main story is the floor… the actual layout of the floor to be exact. This has to be the oddest layout of a trade show I have ever seen. The building is broken up badly and this is the first trade show that I have seen people constantly looking at their maps and also checking the “You are here” kiosks. Normally trade shows feature a simple up and down flow… nope not here. I swear if a cop followed you trying to walk this floor with its zigs and zags you’d get pulled over for WUI- Walking Under the Influence. Seriously it’s so bad that I wish I would’ve sponsored portable GPS for the show floor and I would’ve been the most popular man around.

While traffic for my booth and some around me like the folks from Pilkington has been solid, I feel horrible for those who are in the outer Siberia of the show or even worse in separate rooms! Yes amazingly there are separated rooms that have a handful of booths and not many visitors. Its kind of like the AIA version of Exile Island. (And probably after this post, next year in Boston, Arch will be in Exile Island!). Or better yet, its like most of the show is at the adult table for Thanksgiving while those little rooms are like the kids tables.

That challenge aside it still very well attended and Friday will hopefully allow more people to find their way and visit the outer regions.

Also from the floor..

- Its funny I noted here in the last few weeks about the many companies that may be for sale and sure enough there was a lot of talk about that. When you get this many industry mavens in one place, you can surely expect the rumors to fly and they sure are.

- Very small Chinese contingent here which is refreshing. Also heard from a few architects that they are not happy when jobs are getting switched to Communist Chinese material. In fact one architect went out of his way to find me and tell me he had “nothing do with” the usage of Chinese material on one of his jobs. Amazing. I think part of the guilty feelings are based on the fact that sooner than later the “Buy America” act will be bowing its head and none of these guys want to be the ones that get stuck in the middle of a disaster.

- As for the “Buy America” act- get ready, it’s real and it’s coming your way soon.

- TGP had announcement on their new Steel Curtainwall. It should be an interesting product added to their current lines. Steel has been popular in Europe and could find a niche here in the States. The best part is at least it’s not Vinyl. I’m surely not a fan of Vinyl for commercial usage and have serious issues with its durability and laugh when I hear how "Green" it is. Can you recycle it? If the answer is no, its not green in my book. Then again paint that releases VOC's are considered "green" so what do I know.

- Lastly, It was a thrill to hear from so many people who take the time to read this blog. I do appreciate your support!

This week’s video- from earlier in the week- a Dallas Maverick fan trying to dunk from a trampoline… and well he is… not…. even…close…..