Western Pennsylvania glass industry going the way of steel

Western Pennsylvania’s once-thriving glassmaking industry is dwindling, as did the domestic steel industry and for many of the same reasons: competition and cost.

On Wednesday, 102-year-old Houze Glass Co. closed in Fayette County, the third glass company in the region to close in the past two months.The closure puts 57 workers out of a job.

The domestic glass industry has been in decline for a number of years, said Ray Burhop, a Tampa, Fla., consultant for the glass container industry.

"Glass used to be used for everything you can think of in food packaging," he said. Now many products are likely to be packaged in plastics and cans instead of glass.

The glass container industry is now largely dependent on the beer and liquor industry, he said.

"For years, I’ve always described the glass container industry much like the steel industry," Burhop said. "It’s a heavy industry, high labor costs, high energy costs ... lots of capitalization."

"Once you put on a glass furnace, you don’t shut it down until the summertime, when you repair it" — and that is costly, especially with the high cost of natural gas, said Anne Madarasz, chief curator at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

Western Pennsylvania, although better known for steel than glass, has been "a very large center for the glass industry, much like the steel industry, because of the natural products that were there," Burhop said, listing silica, natural gas and potash as key ingredients.

Pittsburgh’s dominance as a glass center began around 1800, Madarasz said. By 1840, it was the country’s pressed glass capital and by the 1880s, it was the nation’s center of all glass production.

The center’s exhibit, "Glass: Shattering Notions," documents the region’s glass industry and houses a collection of regional glass products. Madarasz also wrote a book by the same name about the region’s glass history.

Over the past 50 years, foreign competition with lower labor costs has chipped away at domestic producers, according to Madarasz and Burhop.

Along with alternative packaging, Madarasz said changing lifestyles have also played a role in the demise of glass. For instance, brides are less likely nowadays to register for fancy crystal, she said.

Henry Dimmick Jr. chief executive officer at American Glass Research in Butler County, said the industry has been going through consolidation over the past 20 to 30 years.

"The glass industry is not going away, it is really just changing," he said.

Several decades ago, there were dozens of glass container companies across the country, but now just three major ones — Anchor Glass Container Corp., French-owned Compagnie de Saint-Gobain and Owens Illinois Inc. — and a few smaller makers remain, according to Dimmick and Burhop.

The company manufactures quality control equipment for the glass and plastics container industry.

Madarasz said the region will retain its importance in the industry. PPG is headquartered in Pittsburgh and World Kitchen Inc. manufactures Pyrex in Charleroi, Pa., and there are a number of smaller specialty manufacturers.

PPG, which began in 1883 as the country’s first commercially successful flat glass maker, diversified early into paints and chemicals, said spokesman Jeff Worden.

600450 Western Pennsylvania glass industry going the way of steel glassonweb.com
Date: 29 December 2004
Source: Dailyitem.com

See more news about:

Others also read

The glass sector has the increasingly widespread requirement of having an unlimited catalogue of parametric shapes and creating new ones in a simple way without being an expert in the field.
Shoaib Akhtar is going to be back on Indian TV screens. He is going to be featured in the new TV ad campaign for Asahi Glass.
Glass Confusion is starting the New Year with Beginning Fused Glass group classes. The three-week course will be held Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Worldwide glass-substrate capacity is expected to continue to grow more than 40% each quarter through 2005, as a result of capacity expansion by existing glass-substrate suppliers and new companies joining the market, according to DisplaySearch.
Architects Robert and Esteve Terradas of Barcelona describe the city’s newly-renovated and expanded (45,000 m2) Science Museum (completed September 2004) as "a living museum that will set new standards in terms of transparency - a very modern construction that will enable the plants and animals inside to really live and breathe." The project was made possible by the use of an innovative grade of DuPont™ SentryGlas© Plus™ structural interlayer that is "UV-breathable, on the flat roof of an Amazonian rainforest exhibit".The UV-breathable 938 m2 laminated glass roof is rectangular in shape.
Christmas got a little bluer for the local glass industry this week with the closure of yet another plant.

Add new comment