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I remember when I was six years old and my grandfather asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I looked him in the eyes and with a seriousness that belied my young age, I told him, “I want to be a tile engineer, Grandpa!” OK, so that never happened. I’m pretty sure no one has ever said that to their grandfather. Still, the world needs tile engineers just like it needs astronauts and IT people and mimes (maybe even a little more than it needs mimes).
In 1989, I was a freshly minted ceramic engineer from Alfred University with offers to work at a nuclear glass research center or a ceramic tile factory. Since tile seemed less likely to irradiate me, I chose option B and here I still am, 20 years later, working in the tile industry. Like many of my peers, I’ve had to move around quite a bit to find opportunities for advancement. I spent years making ceramic mosaic tiles in Olean, N.Y., and Jackson, Tenn., then moved to Lakeland, Fla., in 1996 to start up my own factory. If you really want to find out if you know what you’re doing, try starting your own manufacturing process from the ground up. Chances are, you’ll discover you aren’t as clever as you thought you were. Still, it was an exciting time and I learned a whole lot about making tile.
In 2002, I started a new phase of my career, this time in Kentucky. I became a quality engineer for Florida Tile, working from their distribution center. This position sent me around the world to factories in Brazil, Turkey, Italy and Spain, plus a few dozen stone quarries in places like India. I got to see how other people make tile, both ceramic and stone. I also began dealing with the public much more as I answered technical requests and issues. When my mentor and good friend Al Sucre passed away in 2006, I was promoted to director of Quality Assurance and Technical Services. I asked for a longer title, but that was as much as the business card people could print.
In 2007, the world started catching on to “green” as an important product attribute. It became painfully obvious that the tile industry hadn’t done a good job of getting a foot in the door at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and other organizations that were defining what “green” means. The Tile Council of North America decided to launch their Green Initiative Committee, and I was honored to be chosen to be the chairman. Much like starting your own factory, starting a major committee for a trade organization can be humbling, but also quite rewarding. I have been privileged to work with some extremely intelligent and motivated people who keep me on my toes trying to keep up.
All of which brings us to the latter part of 2009, when I was approached to start blogging about tile by Ceramic Industry magazine. As social networking becomes a mainstream way to reach out to others and information has become a commodity, this seems like a good way to give back a little to the industry that has given me so much. I hope that I can provide information about the tile industry, environmental issues, and more fictional conversations I had with my grandfather when I was six. Each month, I will tackle another topic, and I encourage you to send me any questions or topics you feel might be worthwhile to explore. Stop back often!