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GlassBuild 2011

Finding answers in Atlanta

October 31, 2011  By Rich Porayko

Fantastic educational seminars,
well-attended networking events and innovative products made for a
successful show. It sure isn’t 2006, but recovery is on its way.

Fantastic educational seminars, well-attended networking events and innovative products made for a successful show. It sure isn’t 2006, but recovery is on its way.

Numbers were down again at GlassBuild in Atlanta, but those who came discovered groundbreaking technology and many chances to learn and network. Increased foreign participation opened doors for many new exhibitors. (Photo by Rob D. Cohen Photography)



GlassBuild America returned to Atlanta, Ga., this year to a sold-out trade show floor packed with optimistic exhibitors and a vast smorgasbord of professional development and networking opportunities. The mood was generally positive; however, the overall attendance was slightly lower than in previous years, with 6,295 participants in 2011 compared to just over 7,000 in GBA Las Vegas 2010 and almost 7,000 in GBA Atlanta 2009.

Innovation was on display as companies from all over the world showcased some of the most innovative and exciting products available on the market today. While many old-school glass companies are often either too busy or too slow to attend trade shows and conferences, 393 dynamic suppliers looking to drum up business and gain market share exhibited at GlassBuild this year, up from 388 in 2010. This year’s event also included 73 first-time exhibitors, many of them from overseas who are looking to break into the competitive North American market. Even with fewer attendees, it is these forward-minded glass, window and door leaders that are demonstrating the industry’s resilience during challenging economic times.

“We had so much enthusiasm leading up to the show and it carried throughout the week. The exhibitor’s booths were quality displays that attracted many participants,” says Denise Sheehan, vice-president of industry events for the National Glass Association.

Held Sept. 12 to 14, GlassBuild America is sponsored by the NGA, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Glass Association of North America, the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association.

“We have been exhibiting at GlassBuild for a long time. The show has been good for us,” says Marc Deschamps, business development manager for Montreal-based acid etch glass and mirror manufacturer, Walker Glass. “We released our new anti-slip acid etched glass called Traction, which has had a very positive reception. It is part of our all-glass process, which only involves polishing the surface as opposed to applying a coating.

“We have met some great new companies, including fabricators, contract glaziers and architects; however, we don’t base everything just on new leads. That can be deceptive. We have a lot of customers come by to see us so the networking and relationship management is huge. It allows you to show new products and hand out samples and brochures. Yesterday we spent a fair amount of time with a group of architectural students who we see as the next generation of architects and can appreciate that they are taking the time to learn about glass.”

Shaun Blott, national sales manager for Decon, a representative for Jordahl concrete anchoring technology systems, has already booked for GBA 2012. “We made some good quality contacts with actual projects, including ones from South America, which is an area we’d like to open up,” says Blott.

 Decon’s quick-connecting, adjustable anchor channels, T-bolts and accessories are hot rolled in Germany and fabricated in Decon Continental’s Brampton, Ont., plant. “The show has had some great opportunities and we met some big players that we had never met before,” says Blott. “On the last day I was standing in front of our booth looking for people I knew and I met up with the vice-president of engineering for one of the largest glazing contractors in the country. That was a great connection.”

 “We work pretty hard in the booth to make sure we are visible,” Blott explains. “We have samples and literature up front so that we are really working the show floor and we’re not sitting back on a chair, waiting for people to walk in. I think Vegas with its entertainment will draw a few more attendees. You still hear comments about ‘this economy’ and people are in that mindset. It is still tough out there. The economy is still an issue.”
Education and networking
In addition to amazing displays and innovative products, GlassBuild America 2011 will also be remembered for the outstanding educational opportunities and professional forums that took place. The Glazing Executives Forum kicked off the week with a powerful keynote speech by Serious Energy CEO Kevin Surace that had attendees talking long after the event was complete. With the Glazing Executives Forum in its sixth year, the Window and Door Dealers Forum in its second year, the debut of the Architects Forum and the three highly attended Building-Integrated Photovoltaic, Decorative and Door and Window Specification seminars, GlassBuild America offered an extensive variety of educational opportunities for all segments of the industry.

Using labour-reducing technology is one way to stay afloat in difficult times. (Photo by Rob D. Cohen Photography)


The second annual Window and Door Dealers Forum brought together many of those who are working hard to make a difference in the industry. The First Annual NGA Architects Forum offered an eclectic group of speakers and highly rated education. This new program is geared to attract architects to the event, as it is a great opportunity to earn education credits in the area of architectural glass.

 On the final day of GlassBuild, three seminars took place, beginning with a standing-room-only BIPV event, followed by updates on Window and Door Performance Standards and Decorative Glass. Greg Saroka of Calgary’s Goldray Industries, which manufactures over 15,000 different glass products, was a panel member for the Decorative seminar and hammered home the commitment required to be in the specialty glass business.

The annual GlassBuild America Welcome Reception, co-sponsored by Quanex Building Products and the NGA, was a big success, with nearly 900 people packing the ballroom. This event is one of the best networking opportunities around.

GlassBuild America 2012 will be held September 12 to 14 in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

‘Embrace uncertainty’
Will the economy ever return to normal or has it already? Speaking to the highly attended Fifth Annual Glazing Executives Forum, Jeff Dietrich’s highly anticipated economic forecast set the tone for the panel discussions among nearly 150 of North America’s leading glazers. Dietrich is a senior analyst for the Institute for Trend Research, an economic forecasting consultancy.

Other lessons learned include advice on how to excel at core competencies, how to borrow money to increase efficiencies and gain market share, and how to prepare for inflationary pressures, because higher prices are here and not going down any time soon.

“The general mood among consumers and business leaders continues to be one of confusion, uncertainty and caution,” Dietrich began. “The economic news seems depressing: stagnant high unemployment, limited credit, diminished wealth, a soft construction market with high vacancy rates and too much inventory, consumer debt, rising national debts and deficits raising the spectre of higher taxes, and a national leadership that appears to be short on options for what to do next.”

“If you are waiting for certainty, you are going to be way behind and lose the game,” says Dietrich. “You are going to have to learn to embrace uncertainty. You are going to have to take risks that are very real. Not like the 2006 risks, where you had plenty coming in. Embrace uncertainty because our problems are not going to be solved in the next three years.”

“Hire. If you hire a college student today, it will be three years before you have to pay them what they are worth. Because you can hire talent with high potential, take the time to train them.”

 Dietrich, one of the most popular speakers at previous NGA events, delivered his most up-to-date economic forecast for the nation. “The question that continues to rattle around is “Will this recovery last?” The short answer is “Yes.”

He emphasized that glaziers in the U.S. have a ways to go. But light is at the end of the tunnel. “The commercial construction market is the caboose of this economic recovery. Apart from those with government contracts, the recovery in commercial real estate is not expected to see much relief or growth until 2012.” Sectors in the U.S. with the fastest recovery at present include health care, education, military, government and power.

 “Yes, there are real challenges that threaten to undermine consumer spending and business growth,” Dietrich admits. “But at this time, the leading indicators for economic activity, consumer trends and cuts in spending, as well as ITR’s cyclical theories, offer a view consistent with a mild recovery in North America.”

 “The shift is being made from taxing the wealthy to taxing wealth. It will impact us all. Find a good financial planner and put some money in the Cayman Islands.” The message was intended for the mostly American audience; however, it seems like great advice, no matter where you live.

Dietrich concluded with some optimism. “This recovery will have many bumps and some bruises along the way. Be proactive anyway. There are excellent opportunities to gain market share at this point in the business cycle.”

Rich Porayko is a professional writer and founding partner of Construction Creative, a marketing and communications company located in Metro Vancouver, B.C.

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