Sunday, May 15, 2011

For Businessman Joe Santelli, Giving Back is an Act of Glass

Release Date: May 12, 2011 Contact: Janet Heyl (412) 395-6560, ext. 103

Release Number: PGH11-08

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Local man vies for SBA National Small Business Person award

MONESSEN, PA -- For homeowners throughout the country, as well as employees of Santelli’s Tempered Glass and residents of Monessen, Joe Santelli certainly is a “glass” act.

In May, Santelli, 55, will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) title of Small Business Person of the Year. That honor will be announced during the 48th annual celebration of National Small Business Week. Santelli began his quest at the local level, when he was chosen as the Western Pennsylvania District Office Small Business Person of the Year. The nomination package was then forwarded to the regional office in Philadelphia to compete with their local winner.

Santelli, president of Santelli Tempered Glass, has been involved with glass and window industry for years, cultivating his knowledge with three different companies. However, it was his exploration into tempered glass that helped Santelli change the lives of residents throughout the United States and became the catalyst for his selection as the Western Pennsylvania and state Small Business Person of the Year.

It might be hard to picture, but tempered glass won’t shatter when broken. Instead, it breaks into harmless, pebble-sized pieces.

“We’ve all seen kids run into all-glass storm doors thinking they are open and get hurt. For reasons like this, in the 1960s tempered glass was mandated for side and back windows of automobiles and in the 1970s it became the standard for homes,” Santelli explained. “It’s primarily used for front and storm doors, side [light] panels and picture windows.”

The glass arrives at Santelli’s plant in large sheets, where the sharp edges and corners of the glass are smoothed, custom-cut to the window manufacturer’s specifications and washed.

“The glass is then put on rollers, where it’s heated to 1120 degrees Fahrenheit for a few seconds and this releases any pressure in the glass,” Santelli explained. “It then is cooled very rapidly, known as the quenching process. Air is blown on the top and bottom surfaces of the glass sheets which introduces a uniform pressure.” According to Santelli, the even pressure is what causes the glass to break into tiny pieces no larger than the size of a dime.

“It’s six times stronger than [standard] floated glass because of that uniform pressure, so you could throw a baseball at a tempered window all day and it won’t break,” he said proudly. “We actually use a sledgehammer and break glass here, every hour on the hour, to make sure it’s tempered.”

Santelli said he’s always been interested in glass and for 15 years sold tempering furnaces to companies throughout the United States and Canada.

“I consulted with a friend and colleague who has a highly successful tempered glass company out West. Buying a used furnace I had originally sold him we became partners, establishing the company as the first tempered outfit of its kind east of the Mississippi,” he said. “Eventually I was able to buy him out, but gained a wealth of knowledge about customer service. His company guarantees a 24-hour turnaround time on orders and so does Santelli Tempered Glass.”

Santelli’s tempered glass and customer service has become so successful that he has opened two additional plants in Indiana and Florida. He said that even though the country is in a recession, energy tax credits have both boosted sales and decreased energy costs for customers.

While he’s helped eliminate childhood glass injuries in Pennsylvania and neighboring states, Santelli has also helped fight unemployment and hunger in the former steel hamlet of Monessen.

“We’ve got a great work force here, people who were looking for good jobs in the Mon Valley,” he said.

Santelli said he was shocked when, while driving through town one Saturday, he noticed a mile-long line of residents who were waiting for the local food bank to open. Since then, he has made donations to that food bank, sponsored a Habitat for Humanity golf outing and donated tempered glass for Habitat for Humanity projects and ABC-TV’s “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

According to Western Pennsylvania SBA District Director Carl Knoblock, Santelli truly exemplifies what it means to be a small business person of the year. “He knows his product, the industry and how to position his company for continued growth,” Knoblock said. “And most importantly, he’s remembered to give back to the community.”

Santelli said he knew he had been nominated as small business person of the year, but never realized he might win.

“My first reaction was surprise, and I thought ‘this is so cool,’” he remarked. “I’ve been fortunate to have so many great partners to share the excitement with, it’s been really exciting.”

Santelli and eight other local small business owners and advocates will be lauded at the Western Pennsylvania SBA May 27th Awards Luncheon, which will be held at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel Pittsburgh.

Note: If you would like to speak with Joe Santelli or Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, please contact Janet Heyl at 412-395-6560, ext. 103


The U.S. Small Business Administration – helping small businesses start, grow and succeed.

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