Contract Glaziers Speak Out on Surety Bonding:

Glaziers like to be in a position to be bondable for easy eligibility for public projects; others direct their focus on plentiful, non-bonded opportunities in the private sector.

Surety bonding is an integral part of the glass and glazing business. By law, bonding is required on public jobs. At the Federal level, jobs of more than $100,000 require surety bonding and generally those between $50,000 and $100,000 for state level projects. In terms of issuing a surety bond for public projects underwriters look at the three "Cs": character, competence and capital of the contractor to determine eligibility. With construction up across the nation, work is plentiful and glazing subcontractors can be more selective in the projects they pursue and forego jobs in the public sector.

"We view bonding not as a stumbling block but as a component of both our strategic risk management plans," explains Lou Sigman, president of Horizon Glass, a mid-size glazing contractor serving the greater Denver area.

"It is of value for us to have a reasonable level of bonding capacity and to be able to meet the required criteria when a particular project or series of projects call for such additional coverage. And, when bonding requirements do present themselves, we of course, want to have in place the appropriate coverage at competitively priced premium rates. For these reasons, a strong relationship with one's bonding agent and their respective surety is as important as meeting the necessary requirements in terms of capacity and financial performance when securing a bond."

"Under normal circumstances we would strive to not let the issue of bonding be a deal breaker if the other parameters of a particular project are an otherwise good fit," adds Sigman. "We believe having approximately 20 to 30 percent of your work bonded at any given time can add valuable and recognizable strengths to the organization."

For Peter Hasek, the fourth-generation owner of The Peter Hasek Glass Co. in Medina, Ohio, surety bonding is no longer an issue. "This last time I bonded was in 2001 just before I downsized our operations and stepped away from the hassles of the public arena. At this point I only work for private companies and take on small projects where I know payment will be prompt and forthcoming," said Hasek.

Bill Wiedemann, general manager for Harmon Inc.'s Denver location, says bonding has never been an issue. "It's not been an issue for us because of our parent company, Apogee," explains Wiedemann. "Bonding often depends upon the owner, town and type and size of the building. Here, it just doesn't seem to be much of an issue. Bonding is often requested as a part of a project. In some cases, general contractors will cover the cost of the bond for those subcontractors who can't or won't provide bonding themselves. In other cases, the bond will be waived to get the value of the most competitive bid."

But is bonding just for the big guys?

In his line of work, Bob Busking, the second-generation owner of Westhampton Glass in Westhampton, N.Y., says he has never been asked to provide a bond nor does he chase that type of work. "We have been serving customers in the Hampton's with custom windows, doors and shower enclosures for close to four decades," Busking points out. "The way I look at it is the large-scale projects draw in 20 to 30 bidders and typically result in the low bid being awarded the project. The general contractor has to go through a great deal of time and effort to gather quotes, estimates, secure a bond and participate in what can be a lengthy process with an array of pitfalls along the way. Often the project is underbid which can end up being a mess and it just seems like businesses are beating each other up for no reason."

" I subscribe to the mantra of developing a niche where I can make money, get as good as I can at my craft and bring in as much work as possible in my area of expertise," continues Busking. "I treat people well, provide quality materials, highly trained labor and the type of service and workmanship that earns repeat business and decent margins. There is very little haggling in my business and I like it that way."

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