Volume 8, Issue 1, January - February 2004

 Time Marches On
Industry Reflects on the Two Years that Have Passed Since 9/11

by Leslie Shaver


In the days and months following September 11, Americans, still reeling from the horrific terrorist attacks on their soil, were seeking answers. Not only did they want to know how the devastating terrorist attacks happened, they wanted to prevent them or any other kind attacks from happening in the future. Subsequently, federal officials sought ways to protect America from future attacks, and continue to do so. The color-coded security alert level has recently been upgraded to orange, again putting the country on high alert.

While it would be difficult to find ways to protect people from all of the ways in which a terrorist could strike—chemical or biological attack or using planes and buses as weapons—the film industry might have a way to mitigate damage and loss of life caused by terrorists who have attacked by using bombs. In fact, the government had gone to security film in the past, mandating it overseas after the Kenya and Tanzania terrorist attacks of 1998. 

Yet, after an initial surge in business, many security film manufacturers noticed mixed demand after 9/11. For some, the demand did not meet expectations; for others it was solid. With the shaky economy causing fallout in some other business sectors, such as automotive and commercial, this was not welcome news to some industry professionals. “It [the consumption of security film] has helped us, but not as much as one would believe,” said Craig Duncan, the original equipment manufacturing sales manager for Film Technologies International of St. Petersburg, Fla.

This attitude is not universal among manufacturers. 

“Security film has taken off as the clear leader [among the types of film],” said Paul Panarisi, the product manager for window films for Madico in Woburn, Mass. “There is no question that 9/11 and the continuing threat of terrorism has increased the use of safety and security film.”

Regardless, the fate of many dealers depends on their manufacturers. 

“… this is an area in which many dealers can’t compete, aside from offering installation services,” said Kent LeMonte, senior vice president of Enpro Distributing Inc. in Houston. “The manufacturers seem to be competing against themselves and then contracting out the installation.” 

There is, however, a small segment of the retail film industry that does not rely on manufacturers for security film jobs. For these companies, who like to be known as integrators, the phones have been ringing off the hook since 9/11. These integrators usually are companies that look at a building’s glazing and offer security solutions—whether it is film with a mechanical attachment, film with an adhesive attachment or film with a daylight attachment. Because they don’t focus on the regular automotive, decorative and solar control film markets, they have been able to focus on the security markets. 

Tire Kickers 
When you ask Nick Routh, a consultant for Bekaert Specialty Films LLC in Clearwater, Fla., whether the government has an interest in security film, he’ll quickly answer “yes.”

However, if you ask how much business this has earned Bekaert, the story is much different.

“It [September 11th] has had an enormous effect [on security film] as far as the interest,” he said, “but that has not been translated into actual business.”

The problem, as he sees it, is that a lot of these government agencies don’t have the money to spend on security film right now. Maybe the funds have been diverted to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or maybe they have been sent to other places in the Office of Homeland Security. All Routh knows is that they are not being spent on film.

“It’s a typical thing where government agencies get an unfounded mandate to go do something,” he said. “Then they don’t have money to do it. It’s like if I send you to the store to pick up something. It’s a great idea, but if you don’t have the money, you won’t be bringing anything back.”

Only a couple of agencies have upped their consumption of film since 9/11, Routh said.
“Since 9/11, no one in the government, with the exception of the Department of Defense and the architect of the Capitol, has matched what the State Department did with film for their embassies prior to 9/11,” he said.

Other manufacturers see growth, but it’s more long-term. Virginia Kubler, business director for CPFilms Inc. of Martinsville, Va., thinks security film is competing with many types of security products for government business, not just other glazing protection. This means there is a lot of competition for limited budgets.

“The [terrorist] threats have kept the security film business moving, but if I had a choice, I would have opted for the cement planter business,” she said. “The growth of the security film market is going to take place over a much longer period of time than people originally envisioned. Since security needs cover a myriad of technologies and products and money for dissimilar things gets thrown into the same pot, there is a lot of uncertainty about what gets funded and where.”

But things began to change as fiscal year 2003 wound down. Andy Schuster, product manager/technical sales for Film Technologies International in St. Petersburg, Fla., said more government agencies had money open up to spend on security film toward the end of the year.

“The government issuances have gone up a lot recently,” he said. “The latter part of the last cycle [for fiscal year 2003] was very active. A lot of square footage quotes have come across my desk recently.” 

The Other Side
While manufacturers have had a mixed reaction to demand after 9/11, integrators say they have been getting a lot of work since 9/11, though things were busy even beforehand.

“The interest was really generated after Murrah [the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995],” said Scott Haddock, president of GlassLock in San Jose, Calif. “That got the government to evaluate the threat at those kinds of facilities and see what kind of off-the-shelf products were available. September 11 really put it over the top.”
CHB Industries in Smithtown, N.Y., has tripled its size since September 11, doing mainly domestic security film applications.

“It’s been very busy,” said Carole Borow, president of the company. “September 11 made people aware that there was an ongoing threat.”

To compete successfully after September 11, GlassLock had to re-evaluate how it pursued work.

“We have learned to work differently than we did in the past,” Haddock said. “Ninety percent of our work is from the Federal Government and we focus very specifically on targets within the government [for work]. We have developed alliances that offer different contract deals and allow us to get contracts that we normally would not be considered for.” 

Borow said many integrators can get these jobs by consulting with agencies before the jobs are even put up for bid. If they can gain credibility with the government buyers during this process, they have a tremendous advantage. “If you are part of the [government’s] learning process, you get the work,” she said. 

This is the only way Haddock thinks GlassLock can compete with larger film manufacturers. “When we get ourselves in positions where we bid on projects once they come out on the street, we find ourselves bidding against other dealers and manufacturers,” he said. “We learned very quickly that this was really not in our best interest. We do not have the size to compete with bigger manufacturers.” 

The Commercial Side
While the government consumption is spread out, use of the private sector it is mainly concentrated in certain areas. This has been a disappointment to some. “It [the value of security film] has not really landed with the impact [among businesses] that we thought it would,” Routh said. 

Most people agree there really won’t be a widespread interest in the private sector unless there is a terrorist action targeting private business. “If a commercial company does not read about another commercial building that is bombed or blown up, there is no driver there,” Routh said. “They won’t do anything until it gets them.”

Borow, Haddock and Jordan Frankel, vice president of ShatterGARD Inc. in Atlanta, say they have had some luck selling film to private sector companies, namely those in the financial arena. “The biggest wake up call [from September 11] in the private sector was in the financial industry,” Haddock said. “We can be hurt financially in our infrastructure. One of the goals of The Office of Homeland Security is to protect the big financial institutions and buildings.”

Both of these men say that many of their corporate customers come to them and usually want the security film applications to remain hush-hush. “There is interest there [in film by private industry] because we have seen interest,” Haddock said. “We have been contacted by consultants and architects gathering information for their clients. But the clients don’t want people to know who they are. The type of work we have done on the commercial basis has been on a non-disclosure basis. The last things they want are for their stockholders and customers to think they have a security problem.”

Frankel attributes the private sector interest in film to 9/11. “The interest in security film has trickled down to private firms,” he said. “Before September 1, when we would attempt to sell our product, they could not fathom a terrorist attack on our soil. Now they can know it can happen. People are much more security conscious.”

One example Frankel can cite is the Hershey chocolate store in Times Square, where his company recently applied film. “Three years ago we would have never gotten a call from them,” he said. But September 11 changed that. 

Borow also has received work from businesses in the Times Square area, as well as other parts of the city. She said banking institutions and the entertainment industry have been big customers. “A lot of businesses in New York have recognized that they could be near high impact areas,” she said.

Frankel said the CEOs of these large companies have shown interest in security film. “These people are CEOs who have homes in the $1-25 million range,” he said. “They are looking to combine security film with cameras and other security systems to harden the perimeter of their homes.”

Looking Ahead
While success levels vary with security films, most everyone—be it manufacturer, distributor, dealer or integrator agree on one thing: the potential for security film is still outstanding.

Unfortunately, most of these same people admit that it will take another terrorist event for people to realize the value of security film. To Haddock, the question is not if there is another terrorist strike, but when. “When we do have another event, it will probably drive some of these other people over the top,” Haddock said. “Hindsight often drives people to do things. When we have pretty good sized earthquake, everyone becomes earthquake conscious for a couple of years. Then, if there is not another one for a while, everyone forgets. I think it’s human nature to forget.”

Of course, the media helps in the process of educating people. “World news has done a great job of scaring our society into implementing protective measures for their professional and personal lives—making them a lot more safety conscious,” said Jim Black, director of national sales for Bekaert. “As we continue to educate the public with safety window film as an effective means for disaster protection, we see considerable growth in this area.”

Others see growth, as well. “There are a lot of government and commercial contracts out there,” Schuster said. “I see this continuing and it branching out into commercial even more.”


WINDOW FILM

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