Volume 41, Issue 6 June 2006
How to Make a Million Bucks
Doing So May Be Easier than You Think
by Dez Farnady
From the things that never change department, here is another one of those stories on how to make a million bucks. Just buy a tempering furnace. In the great tradition of the glass business, where new tempering furnaces have been popping up all over the landscape for decades, the rumor that there is one more on the horizon is what prompted this file.
Word is, a couple of key employees of two West Coast fabricators have departed to get together and start their own tempering business. Now, donít get me wrong, having spent nearly my first decade in the glass business working for one of then LOFís tempering divisions, there is still a soft spot in my heart for the temperers. Well, maybe not. Maybe the soft spot is in my head. Anyone who would have any sympathy for a temperer would need to have his head examined. And to think that there is still someone out there who actually wants to put one more furnace into this market.
It seems to me that it was about 30 years ago when only three local furnaces serviced the entire Northern California market. Remember the number $2.83. I will get back to it. There was one small independent tong-held vertical furnace, one large tong-held vertical furnace owned by LOF and a spanking new state-of-the-art horizontal furnace owned and operated by the company then called Tempglass. Guardian from Los Angeles and Northwestern Industries out of Seattle also shipped tempered product into the area, and that was about it. These guys scratched for all of the tempering business and never seemed to have enough.
Obviously, since I am a Northern California guy, this story is about the Northern California and San Francisco Bay area business, but for some strange reason I believe this is not the only place where this particular phenomenon occurs. So, I will continue with the story. Besides, itís my column and I can say whatever I want to say (so long as Deb lets me).
Lots of Change, Lots of Growth
So, you say, 30-some odd years is a long time and a lot of change and growth has taken place everywhere. But has it grown the same way in the tempered market? I donít think so. Remember the $2.83? The same general service area that was once home to three furnaces now sports a dozen furnaces from 48-inch wide minis to 100-inch wide monsters. Remember, none of these furnaces ship to or even touch the huge Los Angeles area market. This is Northern California only.
For those of you who think that California is some oasis-like weird appendage connected to the greater United States by a bunch of desert, you are probably right, but here is a little geography lesson for you. The area we call Northern California starts above the emptiness that is north of the Tehachapi range that protects us like the Great Wall of China from the would-be invaders from the Los Angeles basin. North of San Francisco Bay it basically stops even before you really get into wine country. There is such a lot of nothing between Marin County and Sacramento north to the Oregon border that there are places where even glass companies donít deliver. Well, maybe auto glass, but those guys donít count because they even deliver to your mother-in-lawís barn.
Is it Enough?
The population strip and growth belt across the center of the state spreading east and west is known euphemistically as Northern California. The area has grown a great deal in the past three decades. But, I donít think it has grown enough. Today I can buy a piece of ľ-inch bronze tempered for a whole lot less than that $2.83 I mentioned earlier. That $2.83 was my standard selling price to very large customers for ľ-inch bronze tempered more than 30 years ago when I was buying gas for 40 cents, not $3, and buying cars for $3,000, not $30,000. Back then my house cost the same $30,000 for which today, maybe, I can remodel a bathroom. So, how badly do you think we need more tempering furnaces? You do the math.
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