Volume 50, Issue 6 - June 2015


Uptick in Business Brings a Bright Spot for Florida Contract Glaziers

To say the construction industry in Florida took a major hit during the Great Recession would be an understatement. The state has bounced back in a big way, however.

“The floodgates opened a year or so ago, particularly in South Florida,” says Randy Beard, general manager of Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based Crawford-Tracey. “Healthcare facilities, schools, universities and commercial buildings, as well. It’s been a mix of everything.”

By all accounts, the remodeling and retrofit market has been robust in Florida.

Rob Coffin’s Pompano, Fla.-based company, RAD of South Florida, does a lot of interior mall work and build-outs for new tenants, as well as exterior jobs for office buildings, strip mall storefronts and restaurants.

“There’s a ton of retrofitting due to a lot of turnover, with tenants moving in and out all of the time,” he says. Another driver is that many malls require tenants to remodel every five or ten years.

Carl Miller of Tab Glass & Window, located in Clearwater, Fla., adds there’s more investment in retrofitting because commercial building owners want to maintain or enhance the “leaseability” of their property. “For a glazing company in Florida, that’s the bread and butter,” he says. “Because they have to go to impact [glazing].”

Miller says that prior to early 2014, much of the construction work he saw was institutional, including government building and schools. “Now, private work has resurfaced,” he says.

Overall, there’s a lot of bidding activity going on in the state, according to Key Glass’ Gregory Burkhart, based in Bradenton, Fla. Key Glass is handling a healthy workflow, but he says that working up a backlog and maintaining it is always the challenge. “There’s a lot of competition out there,” he says.

“I always say that ‘we work ourselves out of a job every day.’ In a way, you’re happy when you sell the job, but not after you install it. You’re always eroding your backlog.”

The university and healthcare sectors have been particularly strong for Key Glass, and the remodel segment has kept them busy as well.

Labor has been a challenge for the Florida construction industry’s recovery, however. Due to stalled projects, a halt in planning and a lack of spending in the market, the recession cut the construction workforce in half. That effect is still being felt, as the steady uptick in work has created a shortage of craft workers. The glazing sector hasn’t been immune.

“Right now, the biggest problem we face is labor,” says Burkhart. “… The contract glass and glazing sector is unique, because vocational technical schools don’t teach you to be a glazier. So it’s a skill that’s required through on-the-job training and experience.”

Beard says Crawford-Tracey has added staff as things have picked up, including new project managers, but finding qualified field workers has been a challenge.

According to Miller, Tab Glass has reinvented itself over time with a smaller staff, which has allowed it to take a more quality-over-quantity approach to its work.

“There’s no one way to do it,” he says.

“2014 was a lot better than any of the years prior,” says Coffin. “And 2015 looks like it’s on pace to do the same.”
Adds Miller, “I’m definitely optimistic. I see nothing but growth, project-wise—both with quantity and dollar amount."

Florida Construction Starts
Millions of Dollars
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Total Construction Starts 24,704 22,807 28,675 33,032 39,435


6,944 6,084 6,901 7,077 8,458
Commercial 2,331 2,298 3,380 3,749 4,662
Stores and Restaurants 996 966 942 1,328 1,169
Warehouses (excluding mfg) 257 217 325 514 578
Office and Bank Buildings 598 491 715 439 967
Hotels and Motels 110 286 709 669 919
Parking Garages/Auto Svcs 370 338 689 799 1,030
Mfg Plants, Warehouses, Labs 245 216 113 146 160
Institutional 4,367 3,570 3,408 3,181 3,635
Schools, Libraries and Labs 1,538 1,352 967 1,034 1,050
Dormitories 176 136 266 77 152
Hospitals/Other Health Facilities 1,422 853 868 981 1,251
Government Service Buildings 396 413 411 293 316
Religious Buildings 180 88 90 71 86
Amusement/Recreational Buildings 437 504 485 392 546
Misc Nonres Buildings 219 223 321 333 233
Residential 8,721 9,613 14,487 20,287 23,813
One-family Houses 7,596 8,127 11,794 16,520 17,008
Apartments and Two-family 1,124 1,486 2,694 3,767 6,805
Nonbuilding 9,039 7,110 7,287 5,668 7,165
Public Works 8,633 5,216 5,179 5,626 5,898
Utilities 406 1,895 2,107 42 1,267
Source: Dodge Data & Analytics

briefly ...

Haley-Greer was recognized recently by the American Subcontractors Association with an Excellence in Ethics Award for achieving “the highest standards of internal and external integrity for a subcontracting firm.” …
The Iron Workers and its labor-management arm, IMPACT, held a day-long event in April in which 33 ironworkers and contractor personnel took the Safety Trained Supervisor Construction (STSC) certification exam.

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