When you walk into the entry of Whitney Stained Glass where the uncut glass of every color is stored, it’s like entering a secret garden or the back, private, work area of a museum. There’s magic taking place, and things of beauty all around. The talent of the five full-time and two part-time employees is astounding. All have been with the company for at least five to six years. They make, restore, install and store stained glass windows and doors, as well as skylights, chandeliers, mosaics, lamps, backsplashes, and other unique restoration projects. The current and second owner, Pete Billington, says that working in the stained-glass business takes a specific skill set: drawing and illustration ability for new work, an understanding of geometry, handiness, having a good “eye,” attention to detail, construction ability, no fear of heights, carefulness, and the ability to lift and carry heavy objects.
The shop is comprised of four rooms on the first floor and an upstairs. On the ground floor is the drawing/pattern area, the glass area, the carpentry area, the cementing area, a welding area, and the firing/kiln area, as well as the office. Upstairs is a glass-painting space with a light table, a library, stained-glass storage for clients, and the kitchen/break room. The company has four glass kilns and a glass-paint kiln, since some stained glass that is painted is then fired for permanence.
Whitney Stained Glass was started in 1984 by Jim Whitney. He passed away at the end of 2005, and his primary painter, Pete, bought the company from Jim’s widow in 2007. Pete graduated with a painting degree from Cleveland State University and was working at an art-supply store after college, but he needed a more permanent position. Jim was a friend of the family and had come to Pete’s parent’s house for a Super Bowl party. Jim invited Pete to the studio. During that visit, Pete asked for a job. Jim said he wasn’t hiring a painter. Pete said he just wanted to work with his hands. Jim said, “Okay, you can start on Monday.” That was October 1998; the rest is history.
Pete does not market the business or actively look for new customers. All of his regional customers are repeat customers or find him from word of mouth due to the company’s reputation. His extensive list of customers includes Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Lakeview Cemetery, Trinity Cathedral, The Old Stone Church, Elizabeth Seton High School, and many other churches and private individuals for their residences. He says about 25 percent of his work is installation of new glass; the rest is restoration. These projects are intricate and time consuming. For example, one church’s stained-glass restoration project in Monroe, Mich., took five years to complete. Pete’s first big job with Jim was the First United Methodist Church at 30th St. and Euclid Ave., Cleveland, which also was a multi-year project.
I asked Pete which project was his favorite or most memorable. He says, “A lot of them. When you take apart a Tiffany, it’s really consuming for weeks. We also rebuilt a 40’-by-60’ skylight at the Calfee Building on E. 6th St. and Rockwell Ave. For that job, I had to get a custom roller made to match the texture. The roller, made by a company in New Jersey, was 6’ long by 7” in diameter and cost $35,000.”
One interesting topic came up during my tour: lead. Yes, all of the employees work with and are exposed to lead on a daily basis. They get tested annually and are well within the safety range. Pete says, “We wash our hands a lot. Mainly, the older stuff is dangerous as it deteriorates and oxidizes, but the primary concern is if you breathe it in or ingest it. Contact isn’t as much of an issue.”
Pete’s a trained fine artist who mainly paints in watercolor. When asked if he still does his personal art, he states, “YEAH! I need to do work that isn’t work-related, but I also do my own stained glass to make use of the facility and equipment. I encourage my staff to do the same.” He quotes the late, great glass artist Dan Fenton from his book Glass Under Heat: Complete Kiln Work Notes, 1982-2004: “Never let the sun set on a cold kiln.” About stained glass, he says, “Painted glass is my favorite, especially the Munich-style, old German stuff.” Check out the photo below to see why.
When asked what inspires him, he says, “The drive to stay successful, to stay in business, to pay my employees and keep them working. I want my clients to hire me again and tell others. The ability to work as an artist and support myself doing what I love.”
You know summer’s right around the corner when HGR puts away the pizza for the year and brings out the BBQ grill for hamburgers and Italian sausage! May 2 will be our first cookout of 2018. We’ll be grilling every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for our customers through the beginning of October, weather permitting. If we’re rained out, then we’ll bring lunch inside and have pizza instead. We’ll be welcoming a new chef this year; so, make sure to let us know how he’s doing.
We’ll be there rooting on our team: Euclid High School’s Untouchables! They’ve got a mean machine this year. Come check it out.
Join the Euclid Chamber of Commerce at Services for Independent Living at 26250 Euclid Ave., Suite 801, Euclid, Ohio on Apr. 18 from 8:30-9:30 a.m. for an educational discussion. The last U.S. Census indicates that 20 percent of the U.S. population are people with disabilities, whether visible or invisible. The discussion will revolve around building a more diverse and inclusive work culture through the hiring of persons with disabilities. They will address myths regarding hiring people with disabilities, as well as what is required in terms of ADA, potential low-cost/no-csot accommodations, and basic disability etiquette. Time will be made to troubleshoot specific issues.
There is no cost to attend. Membership is not required.
Please register here.
Join the Euclid Chamber of Commerce at Mount St. Joseph Rehab Center, 21800 Chardon Rd., Euclid, Ohio, on Apr. 17 at 8:30 a.m. EST for coffee and pastry, networking and to meet the staff and tour the facility on its beautiful campus.
There is no cost to attend. Membership is not required.
Please register here.
(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Fran Stewart, Ph.D., author of The STEM Dilemma: Skills That Matter to Regions via The MPI Group)
Engineers are the world’s problem solvers, but will creating more of them fix what ails some regions?
Policymakers must think so.
The pursuit of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees is no longer simply one of personal interest or professional ambition; it is now also considered an economic imperative and public priority for regions. Changes in the curricula (and even names) of local schools, as well as state and federal education spending, reflect a clear policy assumption: Local economies benefit when scientists make discoveries, engineers solve problems, and computer experts program solutions. The places that can attract or develop these professionals are seen as potential winners in today’s technology-driven economy.
The certainty of this conventional wisdom drives countless interventions targeted at growing local STEM “pipelines.” Yet, an important question remains: Does a greater supply of STEM-degreed workers actually generate economic gains for regional economies? New research suggests that (largely) imitative efforts to expand the ranks of STEM workers may not work — because they neglect important differences in regional demand for these skills, as well as the importance of other skill sets for regional competitive advantage.
Why? Because implicit in many STEM initiatives is the belief that a larger pool of workers educated in STEM will lead to the technological innovations, new products, and new processes that drive employment growth and economic well-being. Yet, it’s unclear whether mastery of specific technical skills creates new products and markets, or if entrepreneurial talents — recognizing trends, envisioning opportunities, assessing risk, and persisting in the face of obstacles — are what really generate growth. Focusing solely on technical aspects of innovation minimizes the importance of other skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork, communication, and resilience. Research indicates that:
Not all STEM jobs require a college degree.
STEM is more than just scientists, engineers, and software developers. Many technical and mechanical jobs, such as electro-mechanical technicians, industrial production managers and computer numerically-controlled-machine programmers, require advanced STEM capabilities. These STEM jobs are associated with higher regional wages and other measures of regional economic well-being.
STEM investment may not bring employment growth.
Despite the benefits associated with a higher concentration of regional employment in STEM jobs, investing in STEM talent as an economic development strategy isn’t necessarily a jobs program. Why? Because occupations with higher STEM requirements tend to employ disproportionately fewer workers.
Not all high-paying jobs require STEM degrees or skills.
Occupations with higher STEM requirements tend to pay higher wages, but so do occupations demanding high-level “soft” skills (e.g., critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and communication). The occupations that pay the highest wages are those requiring both high STEM and high soft skills. These occupations include scientists, engineers, software applications developers, and doctors, but also industrial production managers, science teachers, and certain business operations specialists. In addition, some occupations that require high-level soft skills but low-level STEM skills — chief executives, managers, lawyers, teachers, financial advisers and mental health counselors — reward workers with higher wages.
Highly skilled STEM jobs benefit regions, but so do ones requiring high levels of soft skills.
A region may see improved economic well-being from promoting STEM skill development, but regions also can benefit from focusing on soft-skill development. In my study, regions with greater concentrations of workers in high-level soft-skill/low-level STEM-skill jobs tended to enjoy higher median wages and per capita incomes. This suggests the need for greater policy focus on the development of valuable soft skills, which often cut across a large variety of occupations.
Low-skill, low-wage jobs predominate in most regions.
Economic development policy focuses largely on growing the supply of workers to fill “high-skill” jobs that benefit regional economies; not enough attention is being paid to the effects of low-skill work. More than half of all U.S. employment is relatively low-skill, and large concentrations of low-skill employment drag down regional economic well-being. Regions with a higher share of low-level STEM-skill and low-level soft-skill employment tend to have lower wages, less economic growth, lower productivity, and lower per capita incomes. These relatively low-skill occupations — which include work in food services, retail and home health care — play important roles in regional economies and provide thousands of essential jobs, but their limited pay and benefits present significant challenges not just for individual workers, but for communities, as well.
Regions differ in their demand for skills.
The region in my study with the largest share of employment accounted for by engineers, scientists, software developers, and similar STEM occupations had five times more STEM employment than the region with the smallest share of these occupations. Some regions have nearly 60 percent of their employment in occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree, whereas other regions have 60 percent or more of their employment in low-skill occupations. Wide variation in skill concentrations and educational attainment reflect differences in regional industrial mixes and heritages. Despite the largely universal goal of growing the supply of high-skill workers, these differences continue to shape the demand for talent and the well-being of regions in different ways.
Imitative policies may not pay off.
Place-based initiatives that aim to grow the supply of STEM workers to spur economic development run the risk that the newly developed human capital investments (or, skilled workers) won’t stay local. Well-educated young workers tend to be highly mobile, meaning they often take their in-demand skills elsewhere without rewarding jobs, emotional attachments, or area amenities to hold them. In other words, regions may inadvertently develop talent that ultimately benefits other regions. It’s important to remember that while a failure to invest in human capital is risky, it may be even riskier to invest in skills that don’t align with the talent needs of the region’s industrial mix.
The challenge for policymakers and economic development practitioners at local and state levels is how to craft programs and strategies that support the specific talent needs of their regional economies — building on existing industrial assets while identifying new opportunities for growth. The opportunities for workers and regions with the right mix of talent and luck are extraordinary; the speed with which technology is reinventing work environments and demands for talent is equally breathtaking. But the same technologies that are disrupting the workplace also can facilitate better understanding of job demands and skill concentrations, which enables cheaper, quicker, more accessible, and better-targeted pathways to developing necessary skills and knowledge. Regions need to take stock of their own assets and invest wisely — not just imitate the STEM efforts of others.
When did you start with HGR and why?
My start date was October 2013. After several conversations with Brian Krueger, CEO, I felt HGR had a vision for the future and growth. I wanted to be a part of that. It was exciting to go into a territory that HGR hadn’t touched and make it my own. When I got the call from him, I was on my first day as a sales rep with Sysco. I told the guy I was in the car riding with what HGR does and offered me; he asked if we needed another buyer.
What is your territory, and what do you do on a daily basis?
I cover Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Mondays are my office day where I’m scheduling, following up on offers and getting ready for the week ahead. Tuesday through Friday, I’m on the road looking at deals. After a long day on the road, I work out, grab dinner then come a few hours on the computer.
What do you like most about your job?
I love everything about being a buyer. I wake up every morning excited to see what the day is going to bring, what I’ll look at, people I’ll meet and hopefully the stuff I get to buy. I look forward to a long career with HGR. Many of my personal friends are my customers. I’ve attended weddings, retirement parties, motorcycle rides, etc., plus the HGR departmental buyers’ meetings are pretty awesome.
What’s your greatest challenge?
The biggest challenge in my territory is the shipping cost. Unfortunately, we have to walk away from several deals because it just doesn’t make sense to purchase and ship the surplus. Obviously, other challenges present themselves with being on the road along with the home/work-life balance.
What’s your most interesting moment at HGR?
Actually, walking into HGR for the first time!! We all have our road stories, but walking into a freezing cold, dark, dirty warehouse and thinking to myself “what in the hell did I get myself in to.” I look back at that moment and feel very proud of our team of great people who have contributed to the growth of HGR and at how far we have come.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
For 20+ years, I was a men’s college basketball official. After I retired, I needed something to fill that void. So, now, I enjoy coaching my kids’ sports and being Dad. Beyond that, playing guitar and getting my Harley (Merle Haggard) out on the open road with friends. I also have my own DJ company, which specializes in weddings, pool parties etc.
Who is your hero or greatest influence/inspiration, and why?
My grandfather, Cecil Bradley, was and is my greatest influence. He always treated people, and ALL people, with respect and dignity. He never met a stranger, and he taught me at a young age how to be a man.
Anything I missed that you want everyone to know?
I’ve never worked for a group of owners who put their employees before themselves. Let’s all keep working together as a team to communicate, help one another, improve processes, and better ourselves to better the company that takes care of us.