Western Pennsylvania glass industry going the way of steel

Miami Herald : PITTSBURGH – 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 Sen. John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

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