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USGNN Original StoryEbeid Speaks at BEC Conference: Primaries Will Change Hands

Russ Ebeid, president of Guardian Glass, is known for pulling no punches. But he delivered the industry equivalent of a gut punch during his speech on Monday morning at the BEC Conference in Las Vegas.

Ebeid provided the crowd with deep, global and forward-looking insight through a speech in which every sentence was food for collective industry thought. One comment in particular brought dead silence and then an audible gasp from the audience.

In highlighting the changes in ownership among the primary glass manufacturers, Ebeid said that three of the primary manufacturers will most likely be acquired or change ownership within the next year. He lamented the decline of the glass industry as its own industry with people at the top who truly know the business.

"North American glass manufacturers are in turmoil," he said. "More than 50 percent of North American flat and 60 percent of automotive capacity has recently or likely will change ownership in the future," he said.

And, he said, the primaries have done this to themselves. "Industry practices have led to making the sale of glass look more like an auction of commodities than anything else," he added.

In a not-so-veiled reference to the introduction of so-called low-maintenance glass a few years ago, Ebeid cautioned against the promotion of products that don't live up to their promotion. "What was it really?" he asked, "Was it low-maintenance? No-maintenance? With distilled water? If there is sun? The gap between what was promised and what was delivered affects the whole industry," he cautioned.

He also addressed the emerging solar market. "We face a dot.com moment in time with all the rush to solar. It will take time to determine the winning strategy. Some very real opportunities are emerging. No matter what wins, solar will play a key role and may provide a number of opportunities for the glass industry."

He discussed a "new paradigm" for the glass industry that uses a renewable source of energy and engages in recycling.

Ebeid cited such efforts as the Clinton Foundation's Initiative on Global Climate Change as one such pilot project that shows promise. "I hope the new administration looks at this initiative more favorably than the last one did," he said. "A properly defined green ideology will transcend politics."

"Those who cling to the past risk becoming part of it," he said.

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