Volume 35, Number 6, June 2000


It's a tough job... but MGM is Willing to Do It

by Ellen Giard


Across the country thousands of contract glaziers take on the challenges of glass installation every day. Despite the ever-present labor shortages and a company’s simple struggle to receive prompt payment for a day’s hard work and efforts, many contract glaziers still follow through and strive to succeed. No, you are not alone. Whether your services hail from the north, south, east or west, glaziers are facing the same challenges nationwide.

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Located in Orange, Va., MGM completed Von Holtzbrinck Publishing Services (VHPS) nearly three years ago.

Standing Tall

In Orange, Va., Mike’s Glass and Mirror Co. Inc. (MGM) has been providing glazing services to the central Virginia area for 15 years. In addition to the Orange office, which caters primarily to commercial projects, four other facilities are scattered throughout the state, one in Culpeper, Charlottesville, Louisa and Fredericksburg, handling the residential end of the spectrum, as well as windshields.

MGM’s home facility in itself is unique. In addition to the offices, the location also features two metal and glass fabrication shops, where most all work is completed in house before shipping off to job sites. The company also has computer systems, including a webpage, lasering devices and a digital camera. “It is amazing what a small shop can turn out,” says Jack Eaton, MGM project manager.

MGM has provided its services to numerous projects throughout the state, including local work in Orange, as well as Richmond and Northern Virginia. “The work here is really all over the board,” said Eaton. “We do restaurants, shopping centers and office buildings.”

An MGM project that Eaton describes as one of its most unique jobs is the Monticello High School in Charlottesville. According to Ed Acker, vice president, the high school features high-performance glass that allows for extremely high light transmission and good insulation. He adds that light shelves on the outside allow light to bounce off into the building and in turn, reduce the inside lighting wattage.

“The glass business in general brings on different project job requirements each day,” said Acker. “And it is the diversity of a job that makes it interesting.”

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MGM glazed 69 windows and approximately seven entrances for the Holiday Inn Express.

Holding Their Own

And what’s a business without challenges? Prompt payment, according to Eaton, is one issue he’d like to see addressed in contracts. “Because of retainage, sometimes it’s 60 to 90 days before we’re paid by the contractor,” he says.

Likewise, echoing the sentiment of the entire industry, Eaton added that even before prompt payment, the number one challenge the company faces is the need and demand for workers. Often times one of the main methods of finding new employees is through word-of-mouth. He explains that job candidates do not necessarily have to have years of experience to begin work in the industry. Requirements can be as simple as a high school diploma, driver’s license and the ability to read a tape measure. “We need people who are willing to work,” says Eaton. “We are willing to train if they are willing to work.”

Of course, no business is complete without competitors. While MGM enjoys the challenge of competition, Eaton points out that the company doesn’t have any one major contender. “Who our competition is depends on where the project is,” he says. “Ninety-nine percent of our jobs are travel jobs. In a small town like this, you have to go to where the work is.” All in all, with hard work and concentration going into the company’s bidding process, MGM is often lucky enough to win the project. “Unless you are negotiating, the job is going to go to whoever has the lowest, qualified number,” he adds. “And we try to do a strict take-off of the glass and metal costs, and also have a strong handle on our labor costs.”

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Still under construction, MGM installed all glass
products in this Holiday Inn Express in Orange, Va.

Staying in Place

While business for the contract glazier has risen to the brink of new heights, in terms of future jobs and projects, MGM still has a firm grasp on the direction it will be going.

“We are staying busy,” said Acker. “We try to see what the architects are doing, and if they are busy, it’s a good sign that we’ll be busy for awhile too.”

Eaton added that like the rest of the industry, they too are currently faring well. “There is more work than we can do right now,” he said. “Which keeps everything very competitive.”

Sounds like a great job, but is it rewarding? Without a doubt, Eaton says for him, seeing the finished product is the best part about his work. “Glazing, especially in office buildings, adds a real accent to the job.”

Still, every business has a plan and a dream of what can be accomplished. For some it may be winning a job over a rival competitor, for others it could be topping last year’s sales. Eaton says that for MGM he would just like to see the company continue its efforts to make a mark in the marketplace. And what a mark they have left.


Copyright 2000 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.