Behind the Glass
Itzko Glass & Metal, Inc. shines light on people, processes and paying it forward
Commercial glazing is an art, a specialty construction trade that requires skill, considerable strength and an eye for detail.
It’s a combination of attributes that defines the bright, hardworking staff at Itzko Glass & Metal, Inc. (IGM), a full-service design-build commercial glazing contractor based in the city of West Sacramento, California.
Led by Colin Itzko, founder and President, the company is doing its part to transform the industry and shine new light on the glass, glazing and curtain wall assembly profession and the communities where it works.
A Window to the Future
As a young man, Itzko entered the glazing industry by accident. He has long had an interest in computer programming and, upon graduation from high school, even worked for Apple Inc. for a time. When he moved back to California, specifically Sacramento, he needed a job and found one with Trabil Glass, a local commercial glazing company.
Itzko recalls, “I didn’t have any construction skills, but the company hired me to sweep floors and count parts in the warehouse. Over time, they rewarded my hard work and commitment by teaching me all about glass, glazing and metal fabrication. I worked in the field supporting installations and, soon after, learned how to estimate jobs—eventually handling estimating for the entire company.”
When the economy crashed in 2008, Trabil Glass closed its doors—but left Itzko with a vision for his future. While he sought work at other companies, he began setting the groundwork for his own glazing company, drawing on the opportunities and lessons learned from his former employer.
He passed the California C-17 exam to be a licensed glazing contractor and—while sitting at his dining room table with his friend and colleague, Kyle Sullivan, also a former Trabil employee— established IGM in 2010.
Building a Presence
In the beginning, Itzko ran the business from an 1,800-square-foot rented office and shop in West Sacramento. Itzko adds, “We had a small shop, desk, a bathroom, a Toyota T100 pickup and no capital. I used to live in our shop working 18-hour days talking to clients and bidding on jobs.” Early in 2011, thanks in part to their first significant contract award, the two expanded the business into an additional 1,800-square-foot bay in the same complex. The $100,000 contract was with Recreational Equipment, Inc. (better known as REI), and their job was to fabricate and install curtain wall systems along the storefront of the well-known outdoor recreation company. The successful completion of this project led to a second glazing job for a nearby Chase Bank.
Itzko recalls, “At the time, I would bid the jobs, complete the drawings in-house, then work with Kyle to fabricate them in the shop and then help to install in the field. We hired two installers to help us in the shop and in the field.”
Itzko also relied on his computer background to develop an online presence to build a customer base. He adds, “Right from the start, we began using the digital space to facilitate research, drive data and market our services and capabilities—in essence, making the glazing and glass process more self-service.”
Their next step was to modernize the glazing process.
While the early years were focused on building a client base and a backlog of business, Itzko and Sullivan were looking for ways to improve service.
Itzko shares, “As we worked jobs, we noticed that our contractor clients had to complete jobs, such as wall systems, using multiple vendors. They would have one sub to design and model the systems, and then another to fabricate and install.”
With his computer background, Itzko determined that his company could do both by providing complete design-build services. He and his team could develop concepts, model designs, complete engineering drawings, pricing and specifications as well as fabricate and install systems. They also expanded the shop’s computing capabilities: from the introduction of an in-house 3D CAD department to the addition of CNC machines and automated saw stops and other automated systems to facilitate greater prefabrication capabilities.
“We’re trying to think ‘outside of the box’ to improve quality and efficiency,” Itzko explains. “Prefabrication, for instance, allows us to build and test systems, thereby guaranteeing quality before they go into the field.”
Comprehensive design-build capabilities have gained the attention of owners and general contractors, particularly those with complex glass and metal system jobs. A few design-build glazing projects the company has completed include: Ice Blocks Two, a mixed-use building in downtown Sacramento; 3760 Haven, a two-story office building in Menlo Park; and the University Art retail building in Redwood City.
Perhaps more impressive than the company’s technology edge is its focus on employees. Both Itzko and Sullivan appreciated the opportunities they were given early in their careers with Trabil Glass. Like Itzko, Trabil Glass was Sullivan’s first job.
Sullivan recalls, “My dad had worked for Trabil and I was just out of high school. Trabil took me on and taught me every part of the glazing process from design through fabrication to installation. I appreciated the opportunity.”
Now the two are looking to pay that help forward. Itzko explains, “There’s a tendency in our industry to get pigeon-holed into doing one thing and people get bored or stagnate. For instance, they get comfortable being an installer. My job as the owner is to see potential that they may not see, or are scared to engage. I want to take them out of their comfort zone, tap their potential and get them excited about coming to work.”
He and his team are firm believers in cross-training and promoting from within. “I’ve said many times to many people that if I can do it, anyone can,” he says. “So my priority is to give each person in my company a chance to grow professionally, to provide opportunity just as I was given.” With that kind of philosophy, it’s no wonder the firm has a very small turnover rate of employment. For example, Erin Pletcher has been with IGM since 2013. Previously, she worked at Trabil Glass as a secretary/office manager for eight years. She adds, “I went to work for another company after Trabil closed but wanted to get back to a family-oriented environment where employees all grow together instead of the corporate feel that is common in other companies. I knew Colin and Kyle were building that culture with the new company.”
Richard Hoffman, IGM’s project manager, has a similar story. He says, “I started in the trade sweeping floors, moved to shop fabrication and then to field installations. Then I became a foreman and ran crews of up to 15 field employees on very large-scale projects. I was able to join IGM as a professional engineer in the office, acclimating myself to this side of the trade.” Today, Hoffman is responsible for managing 99 percent of all jobs at IGM.
The company currently employs 30 people including project engineers, CAD experts, estimators, a shop foreman, field installers and project managers.
Itzko is pleased that his expert team is gaining the recognition they’ve earned for quality work throughout Northern California. That expanding reputation is also providing a platform for social change.
“We’re trying to think ‘outside of the box’ to improve quality and efficiency.” Colin Itzko, founder and President, Itzko Glass & Metal, Inc.
“I believe it’s my personal responsibility to do what I can to leave a positive impression on the world by helping people in our communities when possible, especially children,” Itzko says. From scoreboards for ballparks to educational scholarships, Itzko is working to make a difference. His company is a supporter of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Adopt-A-Highway Program, adopting six highways in Northern California. IGM has also supported the Elite Skills Basketball Camp, founded by DeMarcus Cousins (formerly of the Sacramento Kings), to teach underprivileged children important athletic and life skills on and off the court.
Itzko is most passionate about The Matt Garcia Foundation, a foundation started in the memory of Matt Garcia, the youngest city councilman elected in the state of California in November 2007—and Itzko’s childhood friend. Garcia was shot and killed while visiting friends in his hometown of Fairfield in 2008 at the age of 22.
Itzko says, “Matt stood for all good things. He was passionate about helping young people and strengthening community through youth involvement. I strive to build on his vision helping others and improving our neighborhoods and carrying on his legacy.”
Since the founding of the company, Itzko has supported the foundation and the memory of his friend through sponsored sports events and community activism.
Itzko adds, “I’m trying to lead by example. Just buying someone who’s having a bad day a cup of coffee can change a life. It’s important to me and anyone who works for me to recognize that we need to support the communities in which we work.”
The People in the Process
In the last eight years, IGM has become a leading design-build glazing contractor in the Northern California market. To date, the company has completed an estimated $40 million in contracts—including around 400 aluminum storefront/curtain wall systems on commercial properties ranging in scope and scale from new builds to renovations of existing structures. These projects range from relatively straightforward window wall systems for storefronts to multistory buildings that require windows and curtain walls, glazing, entrances, hardware and aluminum brake metals.
Hoffman says he loves that IGM is not afraid to take on new designs and tackle things that are not typical in his industry. He notes, “It is almost an ‘art form’ some of the designs and installations we produce. I believe that is what separates us from the ‘average Joe’ glazing companies.”
Looking back at the last few years of expansion, Pletcher says she’s most pleased with the culture that continues to revolve around family and friends, even with the rapid growth. She adds, “We’ve tripled staff size and, throughout the growth, our team has grown closer. It feels good to be part of something that’s supportive of both professional and personal development.”
Hoffman continues, “I like the fact that everyone employed here shares the same pride and respect toward IGM’s goals and the company as a whole and that IGM is the ‘youngest’ of all local glazing firms. Not only the age of the company but the employees as well. We are the new generation of the industry and it excites me to know we will be paving the new path.”
Sullivan agrees, adding that he’s amazed at the rapid success of the company. “We’ve gone from four employees to 30 in eight years, built a fab shop and modernized the design-to-install process. I’m proud of the quality work that we produce,” he says.
Looking back, Itzko freely admits he never would have imagined this is where he’d be at the young age of 35. He concludes, “I’ve gone places I never would have thought with hard work and a clear focus on people. I’ve got a great team and a majority of our customers are repeat. Glazing is still exciting and I love what I do in the office, on the job and in the community.”