Industry Responds to President's Push to "Out-Build" the Rest of the World
January 26, 2011

In his State of the Union Address last night, President Obama said "We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world." While the idea of out-building the rest of the world may sound good to America's struggling construction industry, President Obama also stressed that given the country's deficit it's important to "cut excessive spending wherever we find it."

That said, how does the glass and glazing industry feel about these proposals and what they could mean for the future of the industry?

Oliver Stepe, senior vice president with YKK AP, thinks the current administration and its direction is having a profound influence on the fenestration industry.

"Much like Hurricane Andrew was the catalyst to evolution of the impact-resistant market and the 9-11 event dawned a new era of blast mitigation in building science, the current administration has brought the energy-efficiency of building structures to the forefront of our society and reinforced its importance as part of a national energy strategy," says Stepe. "Adding to formal policies and government direction is the rapidly growing USA social responsibility movement. Consumers will increasingly demand better, more efficient products and select companies that will bring innovative products to market while at the same time reducing their impact on the environment."

In speaking of last night's address, specifically of the president's desire for leadership in innovation and at the same time the need for reduced spending, Stepe thinks it suggests that there is a common misconception that being innovative costs money.

"Innovation is about being dreaming bigger and doing things better and faster, for example more efficient and effective products, designs, services, etc. It's also about leveraging resources more effectively and growing competencies through enhanced business practice or partnerships. Simply stated, it's about how we do our everyday work and constantly seek ways to do it better."

"Reducing costs is seldom a fun activity but much more vital in the global landscape we find ourselves in today," adds Ben Thomas, director of strategic marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass. "To be successfully competitive domestically or internationally our industry and the United States alike must continue to challenge one another through creativity, innovation and efficiency. Deficit reduction, reworking of the corporate tax code and green initiatives will each contribute to the stabilization and, most importantly, long-term growth of the economy. Architectural billable hours and the consumer confidence index continue to improve. When building starts in earnest again--and it will--we will each need to ask ourselves did we use the opportunity to innovate, create and improve."

Rich Walker, president and chief executive officer of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, also expressed his thoughts on last night’s address.

“We’re very pleased about the attention given to the importance of energy efficiency as well as the manufacturing sector in President Obama’s State of the Union address,” states Walker. “But, the President’s call for both deficit reduction as well as increased innovation and production creates seemingly opposing goals, especially as the economy struggles out from under the surplus of foreclosed homes, the staggering unemployment rates and the unprecedented debt added during the last two years.”

Bill Yanek, executive vice president of the Glass Association of North America, says that hopefully, a more 'business friendly' tone out of the Obama Administration will give business leaders a better level of comfort regarding growing their businesses.

"Last night, President Obama highlighted clean energy, but I hope the Administration realizes that harmful regulation by the EPA and in states like California will cripple the very industries needed to grow clean energy initiatives. I also take comparisons of our infrastructure with that of China and India with a grain of salt. Certainly, if you single out certain projects in those countries, specific sectors of the U.S. infrastructure may look less attractive. However, if you look at U.S. infrastructure as a whole, China and India pale in comparison."

Yanek continues, "Overall, I appreciated the positive tone the President took in describing our country's ability to overcome the current challenging economy. I am confident that the glass and glazing industries--especially with regard to growing clean energy--will be leaders in the economic recovery."

He adds, though, "I am heartened to hear so much focus in Washington on cutting spending, which certainly must be accomplished. However, we cannot cut our way to prosperity. Our economy must grow in order to solve the long-term budget difficulties we face at the federal and state levels. So, our government leaders and institutions should approach their roles as conduits for policies and regulation that supports growth--not as job creators themselves. We will grow again when we build again--especially with glass."

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