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USGNN Original StoryGlass Industry Forecasts Slow Times for 2009

With 2009 only days away, USGNN.com has asked a number of glass industry professionals about the challenges that they predict the new year will hold.

Bill Yanek, executive vice president of the Glass Association of North America (GANA), makes a prediction that should not be new to members of the construction industry. "Based upon what we are hearing from GANA members, 2009 commercial construction will continue to slow," he says.

"We're expecting to see a continuing decline in commercial construction activity in 2009 as we have seen in 2008," agrees Ed Zaucha, chief executive officer of APG International and chairman of the Finishing Contractors Association Glazing Advisory Committee. He adds, "We also expect the decline in commercial construction activity to be more dramatic with the smaller sized projects. Many small glazing contractors are really hurting right now."

However, larger glazing contractors also are feeling the impact of construction slowdowns. "So far it appears that there is already a significant slowdown in bidding and design for new commercial projects," says Jeff Haber, managing partner of W&W Glass LLC in Nanuet, N.Y. "In addition, numerous projects have been placed on hold or cancelled that were scheduled to go ahead the second half of 2009."

The challenges being predicted for 2009 are familiar, but will be amplified by the current conditions of the country's economy.

"One of the biggest challenges for our industry will be retaining the talent we have developed in our industry since the last big construction downturn in the early 90s," says Zaucha. "This includes not only field personnel but also project managers, estimators, designers, engineers, etc."

"We believe the biggest challenge is going to be trying to keep prices at reasonable levels that are reflective of one's actual costs and not of a desire to just stay in business at any price, as the latter will only fuel a further decline in prices," Haber predicts.

"Profitability," is the challenge, agrees Robert Price, director of sales of JE Berkowitz LP in Pedricktown, N.J. "The professional challenge will be to navigate through the economic uncertainty of what may occur."

Russell Ebeid, president of Guardian Glass Group, sees an end in sight, but even that forecast isn't pretty. "We are not likely to see an improvement until the middle of 2009," he says. "We are in for a lengthy and slow recovery and that's only for the companies that are able to weather the storm "

To read through solutions being offered for weathering 2009, be sure to look for the January 2009 issue of USGlass.

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