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USGNN Original StoryEconomic, Financial Crisis—Where?

As in past glasstec events, there is a North American Pavilion flying the red, white and blue. This year's group consisted of 19 exhibitors, including Casso-Solar Corp. Doug Canfield, president of the Pomona, N.Y.-based company, says that big advantages of being in the pavilion includes the fact that it is a turnkey package. "Also, having a translator is a big plus," he states.

Asked how things are going, he points to a handful of business cards and says, "Here are things we have to work on." He adds, "We also scheduled meetings with clients from different continents, so it works out well."

With all the bad financial and economic news in the past couple of weeks has it had an effect on business? Anders Holmqvist, sales director of Glassrobots, the Finnish equipment supplier, says that some companies are "waiting for the moment; people are afraid of moving ahead." He continues, "Some of the deals we thought were going to go through have been postponed. However, then there are others who see this as the opportunity to go ahead."

Michael Spellman, whose company IGE Solutions Inc. in Jupiter, Fla., represents a number of European as well as Chinese companies, was in the booth of Landglass, a Chinese equipment supplier he has represented for the past six months.

Asked if the economic conditions are having an effect, he says, "When this all came up, I called a couple of leasing companies that I'd worked with and they said they had plenty of money because none of the entities they worked with had not been involved in the sub-prime market."

He continues, "Actually, very few people in the glass industry have leased over the years. In the stone industry it has been the opposite and the stone industry is dead while the glass industry is doing well."

What kind of equipment are his clients looking at? "Tempering machines and supporting equipment (CNC drilling and milling machines, CNC work stations, washing machines)," he answers without hesitation. "The architectural market is going strong thanks to commercial," he states. "Looking out at my business and the long lead time there is, I expect the next couple of years should be good," he adds.

"The big question is why are people still so interested," Spellman says. "Companies are still expanding and going into new areas. We're not seeing a lot of replacement of machines. People are maintaining them and they're lasting longer."

So, why are they interested? "On the East Coast, the hurricane glass market is saturated. There is more capacity than there is demand," he says. "But this market is still growing in other parts of the country."

Therefore, Spellman says that he expects sales of laminating equipment to go down for a while and then go back up. "But tempering furnaces are just forging ahead," he says.

How is the economic crisis affecting things in the Southern Hemisphere? Anecdotal sentiments on the show floor were that some South Americans did not come to the show due to the costs and the uncertainty of business conditions. However, Camilo Gomez, director general of Cigtra Ltda., which is the representative for AGC Flat Glass in Columbia, said that for right now things are fine in his country. "However, as you know, if the U.S. sneezes, Latin America gets triple pneumonia," he says

One long-time industry observer and participant Dino Fenzi, who heads up his own company as well as serving as the head of Vitrum, the Italian equipment show, and the former head of GIMAV, the association of Italian equipment manufacturers which filled one complete hall and half of another at the show, made the point that the Italian companies do not have to worry so much about the credit situation because they are family-owned entities that have not taken on large debts. "Who knows if we will have a recession or a depression but the Italian companies are prepared and equipped to deal with it," he says.

The bottom line seems to be that while the economic/financial crisis has made people uneasy about their own personal situations, business is still going forward and deals are being done at glasstec.

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