Contract Glaziers Open Up About Their Hopes for 2011
January 5, 2011

By late 2010 construction forecasts of what 2011 would bring were everywhere. Some economists predicted the nonresidential market will finally hit bottom; others expect an emergence from the construction downturn followed by some growth moving into the latter part of the year. Whatever the market brings, contract glaziers say they are optimistic that 2011 will not be as bad as 2010.

“We are always optimistic; everything we’re hearing is that things will slowly get better,” says Bob Trainor, chief executive officer (CEO) of Trainor Glass Co. in Alsip, Ill. “Maybe we’ll never again see the levels we saw in the past, but we’re hopeful. We finished 2010 with a decent backlog, so we have work we’re starting 2011with and we hope that pattern will continue.”

Bill Sullivan, president and CEO of Heartland Glass Co. in Waite Park, Minn., is also hopeful of what this year will bring.

“Looking back, 2010 was not a good year and 2011 will also likely be a struggle, but it does not appear as bad as 2010,” says Sullivan. “We’re also better positioned with our backlog levels going into this year. Still, we’re seeing a competitive market as our margins have been slashed on all projects. So we’re tracking our expenses and keeping staff at a bare minimum.”

Unlike Trainor, which serves the entire country, Heartland Glass is focused primarily on working in Minnesota. While Sullivan says there may be some parts of the United States less affected by the economy, his region—like the majority of the county—has struggled.

“I know there have been some pockets that have not been affected, such as North Dakota. That’s actually been good for us, because some of the competitors there that in the past have bid jobs in our area have not been doing so,” says Sullivan.

Trainor says throughout 2010 his company put a lot of effort into finding growth opportunities, which will help them as they start off 2011.

“There were fewer opportunities and more people bidding on them, but there were opportunities in 2010,” says Trainor. “One thing we did in 2010 was double-down on our sales force. We didn’t cut our sales staff; we retrained them and had more of a product focus, which offered us better opportunities in bidding,” he says, adding that they also looked at other market opportunities. For example, as an aluminum fabricator, the company explored other ways their products could be used.

“We looked at what we do as a business and found products [in addition to glass] that we could work with in order to keep our factories busy,” says Trainor, noting that possible façade market opportunities include stone work, solar, rainscreens, etc.

Sullivan says his company is also exploring new opportunities.

“We’re looking to be more versatile. For example, we’ve brought on a new window line that can work in both commercial as well as high-end residential projects,” he says. “So we’re looking at ways we can have an additional revenue stream.”

As far as what to expect this year, Trainor says there are a number of market segments that will likely stay busy.

“Education on all levels has been a segment that didn’t fall off the cliff, as is government work,” he says. “The medical field was also not bad in 2010. We hope all will continue to develop and we’ll see more work there.”
Sullivan, though, has some concerns about future government projects.

“If that pipeline dries up we’re going to need to see the commercial market come back and that’s going to take bank lending to loosen up [among other happenings],” he says.

While 2011 may bring with it challenges for contract glaziers, both Trainor and Sullivan are hopeful about this year.

“We look at 2011 as a fresh slate and we’re anxious to see what the market will do,” says Trainor. “We’re hoping that many of the projects that are in talking stages will come to fruition.”

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