Thursday, June 28, 2007

FInishing Thoughts

Late night thoughts on the deal of the day....

-- One the most popular search terms on Google today was "Vistawall Oldcastle" as I think so many people after the news broke wanted to gauge reaction.

-- I am feeling for the a lot of the current Vistawall folks- there is some serious uncertainty now on how they will be integrated into the new set up. Something tells me there's resumes being polished up right now- which means there could be some high level talent on the market soon.

-- From a pure PR standpoint you have to wonder if Bluescope jumped the gun with the announcement as they had their info out and ready but nothing from the other side. As a marketing guy, I can feel for the Oldcastle folks- your moment in the sun is moves like this and when it gets spoiled like the end of "Million Dollar Baby" it really takes the air out of the ball.

-- Actually the deal was spoiled by the Greeneville Sun newspaper when it reported on the deal on the 27th. The story is HERE. Evidently there was a tax abatement that needed transferred and the local paper was all over it. Unfortunately I don't check that site often.. or ever.

-- Consolidation is still the word of the day, but this deal continues to drive that consolidation is surely no longer an industry sector specific thing anymore. The cross over buys have been around for a while and will probably keep going in response to this deal.

-- Bottom line on the deal is how the cultures will mesh and integrate. Should be a very interesting process that is for sure.

Lastly I am sad the deal is over, the last week had record traffic coming here and now we go back to our regularly scheduled programming... but I promise I'll do my best to keep it interesting!


Its official as of this morning....

Oldcastle purchased Vistawall.

The first story can be found here- (click)

MUCH more on this I am sure on USGNN and on this blog.


The Press release from Blue Scope (Parent of Vistawall) is here.

Props by the way goes to the folks at USGlass who had the guts to run with this story back on May 17th.

I am sure that more info will be streaming today.

As for the "Smoke Screen" of someone else buying Vistawall, it is now pretty obvious that somewhere along the way, with the heat really coming down on this deal, that a semi-concerted effort was undertaken to try and throw folks off the path. Wow who would think about intrigue like that in our industry!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Interesting Rebate Reduction

Just tons of stuff again this week… and once again they’ll be another post end of the week- so please check on back.

One of the bigger stories that got precious little play was the announcement that the communist Chinese government was reducing the rebate to their industries- thus forcing them to attempt a novel approach and start to not give products away. Obviously and evidently, these daily articles that show up in the USA Today and all over the country are having an effect, and maybe the US Govt nudged their communist pals and said “you know, you gotta straighten up some- we’re getting tons of heat here” or something like that. Bottom line- step in the right direction- but will it stop the communist flow into our continent and their desires to take over everything from glazing to fabricating? Not a chance. Believe me, as long as there is so much extra capacity in communist China, they’ll be issues over here.

Elsewhere this week…

-- And one more note on China… manufacturers reps, that had deals with Chinese companies are getting burned badly. Yes in classic nasty business maneuvers, these reps are working to get Chinese companies materials accepted and sold and then once that happens, guess what? They are getting stiffed on their commissions!!! Ah you deal with the devil, you may get burned… basically the MO is simple, the rep gets the products approved and engrained and when the customer goes to order (usually the 2nd order- not the first) the Chinese will play the “ther're a house account” card. So manufacturers reps, beware, because if you do get hung, good luck suing for your cash.

-- On a happier note- Congrats must go out to Scott Surma of IIMAK- he and his wife Anjanette welcomed baby daughter Berkley to the world this week. For anyone who knows Scott, they know he is extremely high energy, so I am guessing his little girl is already angling to be CEO of her day care class (with plans on calling on an architect or two as well!) Anyway, best to the expanding Surma clan!

-- This week’s “Green is Everywhere” piece… (and I could literally do an entire separate blog on “Green is Everywhere” as its virtually inescapable!) In this week’s Parade Magazine it gave advice for you to figure out your “Carbon Footprint” - which means basically the things you do to live your life is calculated and you then know how much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere- affecting the climate. They even gave a link at (or click here) so you can see. By the way the article said one of the bigger carbon footprint angles are weddings. That line then got USA Today obviously thinking because on Monday they ran a huge story about marrying “green” (click here). This stuff is surreal.

-- And lastly there’s no way I can ignore the firestorm that surrounds the possible Vistawall sale. Those posts last week generated a good amount of e-mail (which for those of you new to this site, my address is that ran the gamut of emotions. Everything from confirmations that they’d heard some of the same things, to plans in the future for the newly acquired Vistawall, to a rebuke from one person that told me with all due respect to mind my own business. But the underlying tone to the majority was the “culture” angle both from people who could be in the deal and people outside of the deal, the meshing of the cultures of two large companies- with their own identities really carried the day. So we will see. As for the other possible destination for Vistawall, that rumor is still percolating out there, so time will tell who was right and who may have been smoke-screening….

And like I said above- a second post coming later this week… as for the Video of the week… it comes from the NBC show, The Office, and its one of those classic office pranks- but in reality can this EVER happen?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rumors- The Follow Up

Wow, talk about some rumors and BAM tons of interest and views of the blog follow! Wednesday’s post set a record for traffic to this site- so Thank you and feel free to bookmark this address and check back again.

Anyway, with all of the interest in the rumors, the questions came in starting late yesterday and throughout today…

Who is it?

Well I can tell you if Vistawall is being bought by someone other than Oldcastle, it WON’T be: YKK, US Alum or Arch… but it is a major aluminum player…. And its not EFCO as scuttlebutt on the street says they are for sale too (Could it be that Oldcastle is going after EFCO and all of the talk about Vistawall was a very elaborate and well done smoke screen?) I still don’t think so, but then again so many people are talking about this deal, who knows what is fact, fiction or otherwise.

So I guess we will see what comes down in the next few weeks. But my gut still leans to the OC/Vistawall angle, but my bets have been hedged just slightly with the revelations hinted above.


-- Noted from the Friday USGNN- 2 items…. First the joint statement from the industry groups on the NFRC. As mentioned here last week, it’s a great step and it proof that this industry is not as fragmented as some within the NFRC and DOE believe. While there will obviously be some differing opinions from within our industry, the reality is the massive majority is united. Best line from the release (though the whole release was super)

The program needs a fundamental change (not just minor tweaks) to make the program viable.

-- Also the note on the weakness of the CSI show is one I covered on this blog several weeks ago. There’s no question that show is in deep trouble, and maybe under new management it has a chance to re-invent itself. (Ah Vegas in June- 112 degrees here we come!) But when people start using the quantity vs quality argument, you know you’re in trouble. I think I learned that in marketing 101… tell your superiors while traffic was slow, it was all quality leads! Plus aside from being slow, I am sure the poor souls who exhibited were probably inundated from people trying to sell them on lead programs and website ads.

-- Lastly for this extra “bonus” post for the week… the USGBC, rated as “From the Fabricator’s” Most Powerful organization (click here- scroll down) announced today that they will require at least 2 Optimize Energy Performance points. Now I take that as great news for our industry because that would mean that the desire to go to more efficient Low E’s like Guardian’s new SN 54 among others, as well as thermally improved spacer like Edgetech’s Tri Seal or Azon’s Warmlight would be welcomed in the big scheme of things. From the aluminum side, there are also products with thermal breaks that will provide the performances needed. So for our industry I take this as a plus. We still fall behind bike racks and waterless urinals, but we’re making strides.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

About those rumors....

Several weeks ago, USGNN ran a piece on the possible sale of Vistawall to Oldcastle. After I did not mention in my next blog post, I got a spate of e-mails asking me why I hadn’t commented on it. Quite honestly I was hearing so many things, I really wasn’t comfortable coming out and posting my opinion. (Some rumors had different players, so much so that I thought one scenario had Oldcastle trading for Kobe Bryant) But now, with more info clearly flowing, this deal, Oldcastle buying Vistawall looks pretty much done. The only thing holding me back from saying it’s an absolute has been the unprecedented chatter surrounding this deal. Usually in plays this size, the communications are kept silent, but in this one, everyone’s talking so that’s odd. Which could mean it’s a lot of smoke screen. (((UPDATE! 6/20/07 It may actually be a smokescreen as now the hottest rumor is NOT Oldcastle buying Vistawall but another verrrry major player in the industry. Wow, my head is spinning, as soon as I get one more clarification, I'll let you in on who it is. But if it is, who I am hearing, its a stunner))) If and when it (Oldcastle) does, my thoughts on it are… from an Industry commenting standpoint, it’s an interesting deal. It’s another angle of consolidation with one side of the industry creeping onto the other side. Plus the culture issue will surely come into play, as from my view, they are not similar. From a personal standpoint, it’s an endorsement of the business model that Arch has worked for many, many years- being a one stop shop nationwide… or a “Single Source” if you will. I am sure they’ll be honored that Oldcastle is following in their footsteps. So stay tuned, we’ll see if and when the rumor becomes reality.


- The Glass Processing Days looked like an interesting event. Not sure if there’s word for word transcripts available for it, but if there was I would love to see everything that was said from the panel featuring among others Russ Ebeid of Guardian. I think those guys covered some hot subjects and had some extremely interesting angles on where we are now and where we are headed glass-wise. No offense to the press that covered it, because the reports were great, but for me I wanted more and maybe that’s coming when the hardcopies of the magazines come out.

- A follow up on a comment left on my post about the Laminated Glass study. To save you the trouble from toggling down, the comment basically agreed with my premise that this study, while headlining such great news, was not that it seemed. However the commenter asked what I thought about the fact that the “field” was really optimistic on growth more so than the reports show. My thought is that I think people see what they want to see, there’s been this urge to get into laminated and many people are either getting into it or expanding against the advice of the people who truly know what’s going on… that would be the interlayer manufacturers. While I don’t see any of the interlayer guys publicly stating that lami sales will be flat going forward, I know for sure that it’s being discussed privately. Yet the surge continues- thus the hiring of groups to pull together “studies” so the purchases/expansions can be justified. Yes time will tell, but with communist China bringing billet laminated into this country, I really don’t see the future as rosy as others. (Then again do I ever?) Thank you to Marc for the comment- I do appreciate it!

- This week’s “Green” moment is actually not one… in our world of trying to go “green” I saw one example of what I would call a RED moment. At Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team plays in covered air conditioned stadium. The stadium has a retractable roof, so when weather truly permits they can play with the roof open and they can keep real grass as the turf. However, the last 2 nights the D- Backs played, the team kept the roof open- despite being 112 degrees! But no fear, they just cranked the AC more so the fans would be comfortable! So instead of keeping the roof closed and running the AC at one level, they chose to open up, and try to cool a 50,000 seat stadium. And you know what- IT WORKED! Yes, they showed on the scoreboard that it was a comfortable 80 degrees inside the park with the roof open and the AC on full tilt. I mean is that not nuts? Maybe they are doing something organic to keep it cool, but unless someone can tell me different, I think a huge waste of energy is going into the Arizona atmosphere nightly. Oh and by the way, one of the big sponsors of the team is the local power authority… I guess that’s a no brainer eh?

I have a few more items, but I am going to save those for a post later in the week… yes another week with multiple posts- but why not, with this blog growing the way it is, I don’t want to stunt the momentum. Plus I’ve been told if I go too long, I'll lose people, so gotta stay with my version of “Short Attention Span Theater”

This week’s video however is…. in honor of the Sopranos much talked about ending, one of the literally thousand "Fake" endings or parodies on the web. (Yes everyone from the Pirate Parrot to Hillary Clinton has done it)... maybe if it ended like this there would be some closure...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

China & NFRC Update

Not sure if you saw this... from the USA Today on Wednesday.

Click- Money Cover Story- China-US Tensions

So it looks like congress may finally be stepping up and taking some action to curb the flow of communist Chinese material.

Also from Wednesday's USGNN the report from IGMA on the NFRC CMA issue.


Like I noted in my last post I was confident that AEC, GANA and IGMA were working to do the right thing by the industry and it sure appears that they are. Its a very long road and even an industry consensus will not stop the profiteering portion of people that basically make the rules and agenda within NFRC, but it is truly a good step.

By the way, it has been mentioned to me, alot more than once, that I should just chill out and let this all play out because if the NFRC is as out of tune as I say they are, then the proof will be in pudding. And that's an interesting angle. But I think I can still achieve both. Informing and educating the masses on what's going on and still watching them do what they do with a basic disregard for the fact that there's no glaring need or call for the intensity of the proposed action. (Remember I am all for a design tool to rate products, just not for all of the extra pork and policing that will go with it)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

That "Great" Forecast

As you may have seen yet another market study was released last week touting the growth of Laminated and Tempered glass by 2011. The report had all of the basics, the great features that laminated and tempered offer and with new technologies really hitting stride, lots of value to be offered. However, this miraculous increase only comes to 1% per year. So unless I am reading it wrong, while business will improve, its only going to improve by 1%, and that paltry improvement will surely be equalized out by all of the other costs that affect business these days like health care, and utility prices. Not to mention more and more competition. So while it seems like everyone and their mother has a laminated autoclave on order, I wonder if they are truly seeing the big picture and understanding that there’s just not as much growth out there as it seems.


-- AAMA and IGMA are having their meetings right now and one item caught my eye. The issue of AAMA 507 being a welcome competitor to the current effort of NFRC to rate and police the commercial market was discussed. And the residential side of the membership took issue because they are worried that AAMA taking on NFRC would jeopardize the relationship the two organizations have. As noted AAMA does do work for the NFRC, and by promoting this, they may lose their gig there. So now the membership of AAMA really has a decision to make, do you want to be beholden to NFRC or do you not. If so, that’s fine, but then you should go the way of the WDMA and be all residential.

-- Like noted in the previous post, I have been getting a good amount of feedback on the NFRC CMA fees and the news surrounding it. The one question I got a lot was “is there any way that AIA would stand for it?” Well I can tell you that the NFRC has tried recently to get the AIA’s input on the program. They sent them this letter (click here) and asked for feedback. Problem is, the letter was typical NFRC (vague) and it was probably scanned by someone at AIA before being thrown away. Not only that, their reaction after reading pages 2 and 3 would be “I’m not doing this crap” but the best part? There’s 995 words on 3 full pages and the words “Cost” “Fee” or "Code" are not on any them! So I guess by reading this letter it’s a free program right? So why, if I am the AIA, should I care, it’s a free voluntary program- not gonna cost me or my client a dime!!! So when you hear that the NFRC asked for feedback, you know what they sent and the "details" that they conveniently left out.

--A note on USGNN mentioned the various industry groups have been quiet on their meeting with the NFRC last week. I do not take it as anything but these groups possibly trying to work quietly through the system. The Greg Carney’s and Tom Culp’s of the world did not become highly respected industry people by jumping the gun. I have to have faith that the AEC, GANA and even IGMA, who I have been critical of in the past because of their lack of action years ago when this started, will be exhausting every angle they can to try and educate the Board of NFRC and trying to get them to make sensible decisions. Especially since there may be only 1 NFRC board member who actually knows what goes into the glass and aluminum on a commercial building.

-- Came across this story (click here) on Blogs in medical field. It was an interesting read and another piece of evidence showing the growing trend of blogging. I think though I’ll have to ask my doctor if he blogs, because not sure I’d want him chatting about my medical history on line…

-- Lastly, its Father’s day weekend and once upon a time I wrote an article for USGlass talking about the great “Dads” in our industry. And that holds very true today. With family businesses still strong it’s no doubt that the “Father” figure really is a huge piece of our businesses. So here’s to all the Dad’s… both in life and in death (We miss you Poppy!) a Happy Fathers Day to all.

Feel free to visit the USGNN message boards here to join the comments on Father’s day.

The video this week is honor of Bob Barker- who is calling it quits from hosting The Price Is Right. Great blooper here where the contestant says what I think Bob is probably thinking!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Passing the time while stranded

Since I am stuck in an airport waiting on a flight that has been delayed due to the stormy midwest, I figure why not do a quick update on the blog…

I won’t go into a ton here as most people choose to read this blog mid week, though there are many of you who check on other days as well.

I got a solid load of e-mail this week after my various NFRC posts. I’ll go into more of them next week, but one I really enjoyed and needed to share.


Thanks for the update on NFRC. You mention California and Washington with the upcoming program. Are those states paying anything towards these costs?

Great question. As far as I know they are not paying anything but considering this whole latest debacle was rushed into action because of California, you would think that California and the energy concerns should be willing to fund it. But then again they think our industry is dumber than a box of rocks, so we’ll just blindly pay for it.

Ironically and amazingly, the day our industry met with some major figures at the Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission “asked” the NFRC for a program to be done by 2008. Seriously it was THE SAME DAY. I know I am a conspiracy theorist, but c’mon… that timing is as fishy as it comes.

So now that “request/demand” gave the NFRC another excuse and an impetus to get this program fast tracked. So yes the CEC, which seemingly has a guaranteed seat on the NFRC board, should step up and pay or at worst convince the energy companies in California to pay.

More to come, and for those of you who immediately skip to the next page when I talk NFRC, I promise that this will not be the main focus of this blog, there’s a lot of other things that happen that I’ll be following.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's Here....

Well if you expected me to lead off this post with anything other than Monday’s NFRC news, then you sadly were wrong. There’s no way I could not talk about the release of the “fees” associated with the program. I was quoted in the USGNN piece and I can not stress a few things enough, most of which, is these costs will be passed all the way through, forcing the glazing contractors to get after their customers for payment. The confusion and ire this program will cause will be epic. But then again I have been hammering this for a few years… so what’s new?

The biggest thing that is new is the release of the costs and it just sends the message home even more on how real this is. These will be costs that will have to be explained up the food chain as I guarantee you when it hits states outside of California and Washington, no one will have a clue on what this is all about and why these costs are being passed along.

As for the info itself, the NFRC release was typically cryptic. I’d expect nothing less from them really. But what kills me is their desire to make their investment back in such a quick time period, they are afterall a non-profit, yet unlike most non profits that would do something this bold, NFRC wants to get back to level a lot quicker. Plus it’s amazing that NFRC continues to live off the backs of only part of their membership that pays the bills. Yes in case you don’t know, product manufacturers and installers pay on a sliding scale based on total company sales. While the people who will benefit from this new program, because they will be the testers and inspectors, pay a cool $400. Shouldn’t it the other way around? Shouldn’t the people who will profit tremendously be the ones paying on a scale, while the people who have to adhere to the rules and still PAY to have services performed pay the simple low rate?

Remember the NFRC and the main group that dominates them (test labs and inspection agencies) will say how they experienced resistance on the residential side and how great their program works over there. Well while it works or not is truly up to the eye of the beholder, I can’t ever get by the fact that NFRC has never figured out that commercial building is as different from residential as I am from Mike Tyson. It’s not even close, yet it was that impetus and the desire to oversee another industry that brought this on.

(And at this point, I’ll be accused of making things up, but it was an NFRC board member who publicly stated a few years ago in a NFRC meeting that the Commercial industry was an “untapped” market- then when that was brought to light is when all of a sudden NFRC started to “dig up” all of the reasons they have for doing this)

And the bottom line… It’s absolutely pathetic we find ourselves in this position… being dictated to by a profiteering group of test labs and inspection agencies that are given carte blanche by a sound asleep group at the Department of Energy. While I have said it before and I will say it again, our industry has nothing to hide and is more than open for a creation of a system to calculate full system values. However when that system is built by people who have zero interest in our industry, zero clue on how the industry works, zero care about what we do, and zero desire to talk and LISTEN to the people this will truly affect (Building Owners, Architects, General Contractors, Glaziers, Suppliers etc). Yes this program goes forward despite all that…

Saturday, June 02, 2007

China and Human RIghts

For those of you who think the communist Chinese are just warm and loving folks. Want to read a very interesting take on this from North of the border. Click Here. It's a column from the Ottawa Citizen on the fact that most people are ignoring the horrific treatment of chinese citizens so they can still keep the trade flowing.
It's also an article that is not blind to some of the realities of the situation. An interesting read if you have a few minutes.