Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is it really growth?

Last week on e-glass Weekly, there was a link to a story about possible growth in 2011 via a report from the Associated General Contractors of America. The report and story was very interesting but one paragraph jumped out at me, and basically got the juices flowing.

“Bid levels will remain very competitive this year. According to the survey results, 29 percent of firms report they plan to lower bid levels in 2011. That follows a year when 74 percent of firms reported lowering bid levels, including seven percent who reported lowering bid levels to the point they lost money performing the work”

So you wonder- last year ¾ of the GC’s lowered their pricing but this year only a little more than a ¼ “plan” to. So is this optimism? Or will when this poll comes out in 2012 does it show that everyone dropped again. I also think the poll is goofy. I mean do you ever PLAN on dropping your number? Isn’t that kind of hokey? I also believe that the 7% listed that lost money on lowered bid levels is woefully low just because when you have more GC’s than ever bidding a job, you know there’s more than 7% that are dropping below the Mendoza line. Anyway the moral of the story is while things are seemingly on pace to improve, there’s still lingering issues hanging out there.


-- Really, really sad news this week as I just heard about the mid January passing of Mark Bond of WA Wilson. Mark was a tremendous man and his passing leaves a big hole in hearts of many folks both at Wilson and everyone that dealt with Mark on a daily basis. When I was growing up in the industry, I dealt with Mark (my company sold to Wilson and if/when we messed up, it was Mark we/I dealt with) and he schooled me- I learned a ton from him and respected him beyond belief. He had beaten some serious health scares over the years, so when I heard he passed; I was shocked because I really thought he could overcome anything. A good man and huge loss. Condolences go out to everyone at Wilson and Mark’s family. He’ll truly be missed.

-- Last week’s blog by fellow e-glass Weekly blogger Bill Evans was super. No doubt Bill is a guy that can inspire. That entry is the type that should be sent around the office because it really its home….

-- Speaking of fellow bloggers I wonder if Chris Mammen will be hanging out at the Super Bowl this weekend….

-- Interesting article here on how one power company looks to cash in on Solar… but unfortunately on the backs of the adopters! This was due to happen that is for sure.

-- Last… and certainly not least… the Super Bowl is this weekend. If you have followed this blog (and thank you for following), you know I am on an epic picking streak… I am always wrong. So I think you can assume what my pick will be this week. So here goes…
I am picking the Packers to win… and not just because my picking a team makes the other team win and I am a Steeler fan. No here’s the reasons why:

1. I like the Packers- love Rodgers and think the GB D is good and the Steelers without their starting center will have issues.
2. Can Pittsburgh really win its 3rd title in 6 years? That’s Scott Surma like success there.
3. The MGM took in a MILLION dollar bet on the Packers. WOW. Story is here if you want to read.
4. Most important my Mom demands I pick the Packers and by doing so I move up on her list and could crack the top 20 of people she likes. (Loooong way to go to get to the rarified air my brother and sister hang out in with my Mom)

So to make this even more wild- when I was in Las Vegas this week I put money down on the Packers to win outright. So if the Pack wins, I win some cash and folks in Wisconsin won’t hate me. If the Steelers win, I’m happy, family is happy and I will have amazingly gotten every playoff pick wrong- which you have to admit is impressive. Anyway hope it’s a good game and also let’s have some good commercials this year too!


-- A crazy college ski trip and wimpy sponsor

-- Cool invention to show parents what their teenagers are doing behind the wheel… have I ever told you how I dread my kids growing up?

-- And last a guy after my own heart.. he is trying to GAIN weight so he can get gastric bypass surgery! I love it!


Sent to me by an old co worker and friend, this is simply amazing… a crazy stunt that needed perfect planning. And I swear it looks fake but I just don’t know how you fake it… thanks to JK for the link!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Seismic Change for our Industry

No doubt the big news of the week was the announcement that the Chairman & CEO of Apogee Russ Huffer intends to retire once his successor is named. In what could be the first of a few very high profile retirements to come in 2011, Huffer’s announcement did catch many off guard- including me quite frankly. In any case this is a tremendous unsettling of the industry and we’ll have to see who Apogee puts in to fill some very large shoes. Huffer was a very active industry participant, speaking at many events and really pushing the proper gospel that put our world in a positive light. Russ also never went with the masses. When everyone was pimping solar, Russ steadfastly held to his data that the material was not ready for prime time. I believe his stance on that forced people to go back to the drawing board and when solar matures, I think Russ will be one of the folks to thank. All in all this is a seismic change and I hope that Russ stays involved in our world in some capacity because we really do need it.


-- Speaking of an Apogee company- Viracon… last week I noted their amazing influence to get politicians into their plants. Afterwards I got an e mail that asked me why I always prop Viracon while dinging “everyone else.” So on that note- I believe I give Viracon the props they deserve- they have some of the best people in our world and they truly try to be a good and active industry player. And really with the exception of a few cases that I am emotionally involved in, I have become a kinder, gentler, blogger.

-- Another good month for the Architectural Billings Index… Even the west is starting to show signs of life there. No doubt it is promising but even the analysts are urging caution since December can be pretty funky. So we will see, but if this hold then the predictions of an improved 2nd half of 2011 will be dead on.

-- Meanwhile in current times, January looks bleak thanks to the brutal weather. Quite simply when glaziers in the east and southeast are losing entire WEEKS to bad weather, well that is just not good. Oh and then I ran across this story where scientists think a “Super Storm” may hit California? Wow. Wonder when the new codes to guard against a “Super Storm” are coming.

-- PPG capped a great year with record sales in the 4th quarter. It’s nice to see this on a few levels… hopefully that health will run downstream to more of the industry (and remember PPG is much more than just glass these days) and there’s some fantastic talents within PPG that work very hard to reach the heights those numbers showed. I’m happy for them.

-- Solutia introduced a new logo recently and I love it. (see kindler, gentler… when Kawneer broke out the big red K I panned it or when Visteon brought us Versalux). Seriously though kudos to all at Solutia who worked on it- great colors, great look and style.

-- Last and not least… my ability to NOT pick teams reached a new high… and honestly I am thrilled. The Steelers are back in the Super Bowl…. And I did seriously think the Jets (and the Bears for that matter) would win. I am glad I am not a sports better for a living… but I’d love to be anyone who goes against my picks… they have to be making a ton of money. So two weeks… two great franchises.. the Pack and the Steelers and I think you know right now I am all over the Packers to win….LOL (And note, game wasn't over 5 minutes before my Mom e mailed and said "PLEASE, Please pick the Packers to win)


-- A really sad and sickening story about a Mom and a son who drowns in the bath tub. Simply unreal. Seriously what kind of world do we live in now?

-- Pretty comical way to beat the winter blahs…an inflatable window! But I wonder if it has to get a NFRC label? hmmmmmm

-- Yep only in China… You can have someone wait in a traffic jam for you… You know that would not be a bad gig for DC, Dallas or Chicago.


In Georgia they do not get a ton of snow- so when it does happens there are lots of issues. But this one was pretty classic. Snow plow driver clearing a parking lot and finding a hole and tipping over. Ooops. This is something you don’t see every day and I can tell you everyone in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are laughing still about it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weather taking its toll

Mother Nature showed her strength last week with the brutal storms in the Southeast and the combo storms in the Northeast. Add to that the rain out west and we have had some awful weather recipes lately. It’s pretty wild that so many things have an effect on our world, including the weather. Every day it seems like there’s something new and different that hit all of us more than other trades etc. Anyway I wonder if any of the analysts who develop future economic forecasting take weather into account. After all a rough run of terrible conditions, can surely be a negative driver. Hopefully Mother Nature has it out of her system!


-- The FTC this week stepped up and ended the “Tested Green” certifications that found the products not tested or even “green”. The release from the FTC is HERE and it’s pretty interesting actually and good that it’s happened. The whole greenwash gig is good for no upstanding group, so having actions like this are a step in the right direction.

-- Didn’t get a ton of time at the Builder Show this past week… still some thoughts… show was smaller than traditionally… one vendor used the word “Slim” which kinda sounded right. Not sure how the bad weather up north affected it, but it probably did somewhat. Actually though I think this show has been “right sized”…. It was way too big and way too crazy and now it’s the way it should be. The happy days of midget Elvis performers in booths are long gone that’s for sure. Overall attitude was also leabing toward the negative, which surprised me since so many studies are showing positives for 2011. I guess we’ll see.

-- Speaking of reports there were a few more good ones about 2014 and so on with loose ties to our world. Not sure what the metrics are, but these reports sure are keeping people pumped up.
-- I saw that Senator Al Franken visited the gang at Viracon… I swear Viracon is becoming like the Iowa of the glass world. You know how when someone wants to run for President they have to go hang out in Iowa? Well I think if a political figure wants to hang around glass they go to Viracon. Congrats to those guys there attracting these folks in and also getting in their ears about the issues that are really affecting our industry.

-- Congrats to my friends from Walker Glass on their remodeled headquarters. All I can say is if that place looks as good as all of those guys dress… it is probably a showstopper!

-- Glass Magazine had a piece on Glass developed that’s stronger than Steel… It sounds pretty great, but supposedly it’s real expensive. I laughed at that line- hey just launch in our industry right now and watch with amazement as the price goes down… who cares what the cost is right?

-- Last… yep I can’t pick games- people who have been reading this blog since 2005 know that… and Oregon added to that pain. Anyway my mom says to me tonight- “So who do you like in next week’s game the Steelers or the Jets?” and before I could answer she jumped in and said “PLEASE DON’T PICK THE STEELERS! You’re always wrong!” Yep my picks have hit home now when my own Mom is aware her son is pure “Mush” when it comes to the picks. Now that said I do actually think the Jets will beat the Steelers. If the Steelers played the Pats it would be different but I think Rex Ryan and the Jets are a team of destiny and in the Super Bowl they’ll play the other team of destiny- the Bears. (The Bears have been getting breaks since week 1- it’s their year)


-- This could be pretty cool… you put a price on your seat if your plane is overbooked. Curious to actually see this work.

-- Great piece on how the Sony Walkman changed the world.

-- This one I am not sure how I feel. The back story is a school district made phone calls to the families of their students letting them know school was delayed 2 hours. Snow day. Problem was the call was at 4:30AM. Anyway part of me would appreciate that call I guess. Still the story linked is about a father who DIDN’T like it and returned the favor.


Greg Carney (I should say the Long Lost Greg Carney, haven’t heard from him in a while- that’s what happens when you become a worldwide “must have” resource!) sent me this classic video of a retirement home talent show and three retirees doing Michael Jackson. Crazy. Actually a video of me doing the Michael Jackson Wii Video game would probably blow this away… well probably not, because these folks have talent! Thanks Greg for the video!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

New Year, New Adventures

Happy New Year to one and all… now will it really be a “happy” new year for our industry? Personally and professionally I do think by year end we will look back and note that things have turned the corner. However here are a few landmines that have popped up recently and may not be getting enough press right now that could affect the positivity. Silver…. It just hit a 30 year high and predictions are that it will keep going higher. In fact I have seen stories talking about silver going up to anywhere from 60 to even 86… (It’s sitting now at 28/29). Silver is a pretty important player in a lot of what our industry provides so a massive price growth there will have effects. (like high costs in an industry that somehow never gets a higher selling price)

In addition costs of lumber have been growing as well. I think everyone would love to get materials on returnable and reusable steel racks, but sometimes that’s not possible. Major increases in wood also will take a toll. And last on my doomsday opener here… Gas…. Yep I have been whining about gas prices for years… and now the predictions are 4 and 5 dollar per gallon gas in the future. Yikes. All in all though I am still positive… it’s a great new year ahead and we’ll work through all the landmines thrown at us.


-- If you missed my year in review, you can find it by clicking HERE.

-- Also if you missed it the ABI did have a nice finish to the end of the year. Congrats to those of you in the Northeast, man it looks pretty promising your way.

-- This week is the International Builder Show. I am hoping to get there for one quick day. As always it will be interesting to see the attitude on the floor. That show sometimes can be a pretty decent indicator of the year ahead. Though sometimes I think people that sell in that world and attend that show have very loose grips on reality.

-- I cracked up this week in reading about SAPA acquiring Arch’s extrusion facility. First laugh was I coulda swore I read that Arch was “done” restructuring. Then the 2nd laugh and more heartily was the quote that said that Arch could be MORE reliable now that they sold their operation. Yep things always get better the LESS control you have. (Or if you can’t figure out how to run something I guess) Oh well, the beat goes on… Any quotes from the new Arch guy are an absolute treasure trove of unintended comedy.

-- Did you happen to see the article on China Glass Holdings expecting their energy related products to make up half of their sales by 2012? Right now that segment is only 10% of their work… so of course my thought is at least China is getting and grasping the need for value added energy related products. Also in that article a very ominous line:

"I'm a little worried about new supply in the glass market in 2011. Glass prices will be under pressure this year, although perhaps demand will help keep the falls capped," said Haitong International Securities analyst Zheng Zhihao.

Wow, when the Chinese are worried about capacity… that really makes the mind race.

-- The fine folks from the Window and Door Dealers Alliance put out a piece HERE explaining the new tax credit rules for residential windows. I know most people who read this blog are commercial folks, but this question does sometimes cross over and heck its good just to know.

-- Also for 2011, I started yet another phase of a lifestyle change… otherwise known as a diet. Since I am now bigger than most offensive lineman in the NFL and more importantly I am running out of clothes that fit, I had to get back on the wagon. So much fun just eating like crazy…. Oh well. So with that news if you have stock in Domino’s or M&M Mars, you may want to sell… because their biggest customer is now off the market for a while.

-- Registration is open for Glassweek and BEC. Some very good pieces yet again on tap for that event. If you have never gone or haven’t been in a few years, give it a go. It is worth it on several levels.

-- Funniest thing I saw during the holidays? When I was in LA, I saw a van advertising a local plumber… his motto was in all seriousness... “The Smell Good Plumber”… I never ever associated my need for a plumber with the smell he may leave behind.

-- By the time many of you read this the BCS National Championship will have passed… but so I am on record… I am going with Oregon…. I think it’s a close first half but Oregon wears em down in the 2nd. Final score Oregon 41 Auburn 24.


-- The aftermath of that winter storm before new years that left people stuck in airports for days….people fired up…

-- Simply amazing story about a real life “Thumbelina”

-- I am not an Auto Glass guy but they have this wild “Bullying” controversy going on over there. Tremendous blog take on it here. Some of the stuff that happens on the auto side really dwarfs any of our controversies that’s for sure.


You may have heard about the homeless guy with the “Voice of God” but in case you missed it, here’s the video that started it all. Since this video went viral, the homeless guy has gotten a ton of gigs and now has an agent to boot. Crazy.