HAGA Names Businesswoman and Mother of Five 2011 Glass Professional of the Year
February 10, 2012

by Sahely Mukerji, smukerji@glass.com

Irene Lopez with her husband, Mario.

Irene Lopez of M.I. Glass Inc. in Houston, Texas, has been named the 2011 Glass Professional of the Year by the Houston Area Glass Association (HAGA). Lopez received the award during HAGA's dinner meeting on January 12.

A member of HAGA for the last 15 years, Lopez has been involved in the industry for 23 years. "My husband and I opened our business, a retail glass shop, M.I. Glass, in Houston in 1989," she says. "We fabricate, install and sell to the public. We do everything related to glass and aluminum."

Lopez is "always upbeat, always behind the scenes, very pleasant, always smiling and always positive," says David Ozment, Gulf Coast account executive for Binswanger and past president of HAGA. "She has a warm heart, very much a family woman and very much a business professional. She's devoted, brings fresh ideas, and an inside- and outside-the-box thinker. Her strong motherly instinct comes into the business. She's special. She's been there for years and does what's best for the association."

A mother of five, Lopez says she does all the work inside the shop, while her husband, Mario, does all the work outside. Mario Lopez also is a volunteer leader of HAGA.

Since Lopez joined HAGA's membership committee last year, membership has gone up about 30 percent, she says. "I try to do more public activity," she says. "We're trying to get [Congresswoman] Sheila Jackson Lee [D-Texas] to get involved. We fix glass for the elderly free of charge once a year. This year we'll do it in September. That's how the association will get noticed, by giving back to the community. And all our members need to be involved."

More glass professionals need to join the association, Lopez says. "There are companies that don't want to support the industry; they just want to go fix glass," she says. "They need to join the association, so they can get new information, keep up with the new products, and see news vendors. The association can help us with legislation, new ideas and new products. It can educate us. They have trade shows that we can go to and attend seminars. That's how we'd learn. It's not just about replacing glass anymore."

The young are the future, Lopez says. "We're not going to be here forever," she says. "We need to train the young for the glass industry." To that end she has all her five children - three in college and two in high school - involved in her shop. "They help out with the shop, fabricating shower doors, commercial doors, tabletops and shelves," she says. "We fabricate for other glass companies also. We do full service here."

The couple started their less-than-$5,000 business from their apartment, and now owns a 10,000-square-foot facility, six trucks and nearly 10 employees. "We're planning to get part-time students to help, so they can start learning the trade," Lopez says.

One of the other areas of her focus is new members, Lopez says.

"We need to give something to the glass shops that become new members," Lopez says. "We'll give links to new job sites to our new members. I'm trying to find health benefits for our members; talking to Aflac. We have discount pharmacy cards. We also want to notify the wholesalers to give a discount to the members of HAGA."

In the works is negotiations with a ballplayer to visit HAGA to talk to the members. Lopez wouldn't divulge his name.

"We have to give something back to them," Lopez says. "We're happy to support the industry."

HAGA is a part of the Texas Glass Association (TGA), which is a co-sponsor of TEXpo 2012. The architectural glass event is scheduled to take place at the El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, April 12-13. Lopez says she's looking forward to attending the show. "I will be going to TEXpo with my husband, who is the treasurer of TGA," she says. I will help translate for all the Spanish-speaking attendees."

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