The Dlubak Group

Frank Dlubak, head of the country's leading architectural glass manufacturer, is known as an inventor, entrepreneur and visionary in his industry. Products from his Blairsville-based cluster of companies, The Dlubak Group, range from hurricane and ballistics glass to high-tech machining of refractory material used to line furnaces.

The Chicago Symphony Hall's glass canopy and the Liberty Bell's protective glass wall are Dlubak creations, as are the new glass turrets on military Humvees in Iraq. By designing and developing new products and processes, Frank Dlubak has led the glass industry time after time into new territory and his company has thrived there.

It took the Latrobe-based Saint Vincent College Small Business Development Center (SBDC), however, to persuade him to venture overseas – in this case to China. “They enticed me to go,” said Dlubak. “They made everything so easy for me.”

The incentive was a 2004 China trade mission organized by the Saint Vincent College SBDC to help companies in southwest Pennsylvania expand their markets overseas.

Preparations for the trade mission, which Saint Vincent SBDC Director Jim Kunkel describes as “the end of a long process,” which began with the center's training seminar, Exploring Business Opportunities in China. The seminar teaches business owners the basics of researching the Chinese marketplace, explains the regulatory and bureaucratic environment in China, and describes the cultural differences that are so important to understand before doing business there. The SBDC also provided support to companies from southwest Pennsylvania who were export-ready and interested in the Chinese market with industry-specific market research and strategic assessment.

Once participation in the 2004 trade mission was confirmed, the SBDC made appropriate contacts, organized an agenda of professional meetings with potential trading partners in Beijing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, and Shanghai, and took care of travel and lodging arrangements. All of Dlubak's one-on-one business meetings were facilitated by an interpreter who worked with him throughout the trip. He also exhibited products at a building trades show in Beijing, which led to additional trade leads and contacts in China's burgeoning construction sector.

“Everyone on the Saint Vincent SBDC's team was so organized and so professional,” said Dlubak. “Thanks to all the cultural background that Jim Kunkel gave me, I knew how to talk to the people I met and I could begin to build relationships.”

As a result of the mission, the Dlubak Group has established an overseas office in Qingdao and has hired two representatives to promote Dlubak products in China. Less than a year after Dlubak's first trip to China, the Dlubak Group has entered into a formal business partnership with the Yumin Group, in Zibo, a large manufacturer and real estate developer. The contract involves the export of Dlubak's Pennsylvania-manufactured products as well as machining of refractory material made by the Chinese company and sent to Dlubak for precision finishing.

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The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia prominently features glass from The Dlubak Group.