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Monday, May 16, 2022

#30 JANE SKEETER

Jane Skeeter really believes in glass. “It’s just such a durable, practical and transformable material,” she said. “It’s wonderful with light.” As chief exectuive and founder of UltraGlas Inc., which bills itself as “the world’s leading manufacturer of all facets of designed architectural and high-performance glass and glass tile,” it is Skeeter’s top priority to promote it. From the functional to the decorative, the Chatsworth company creates its own molds and sells product to other manufacturers and distributors. “I’ve been a proponent of glass to be used in lieu of other materials,” she said. Skeeter spun off her multi-million business from a humble business she began in 1973. Phasing out her clothing design and dressmaking endeavor, she started Skeeter Studios, an architectural art glass and glazing business. In 1987, Skeeter introduced a new production scale fabrication of architectural kiln-formed and heat-molded glass — and UltraGlas was born. Fourteen years later, Skeeter expanded the company’s manufacturing capacity and increased its diverse glass offerings. “The industry was being impacted by offshore sales,” she recalled. “I could tell it was starting to wane so we started to mold the glass to make shower doors and entries. Then I kept pushing it.” In 2011, despite the economic pain of the Great Recession, Skeeter invested into machinery that allowed her to laminate and encapsulate other materials. “It’s like making a glass sandwich with something wonderful inside it,” she said of encapsulation. Today, UltraGlas has become the glass of choice among the world’s distinguished architects and designers – a single-source resource for all facets of specialty glass use, from flooring and ceilings to high-rise siding for office or industrial buildings. The company covers all areas of glass production, including carving, etching, laminating, tempering, permanent coloration, mirroring and patented UltraGlas-E made of landfill-salvaged glass. “We usually work with architects and designers,” she said. In 2001, Skeeter purchased the Chatsworth industrial building where her business is based today with more than 25,300 square feet. “Our kiln room is quite warm, so the naturally ventilated skylights are ideal,” she said. “We also have a showroom.” Skeeter’s workforce has expanded and contracted down to 12 after the Great Recession, when she installed a wall inside the warehouse and leased out 8,000 square feet to another business. The company currently has 12 employees. Current projects include creating a glass façade for an offshoot of an upscale Hollywood-based rocker jewelry store in Chengdu, China, by 2020; and finishing work for the Higgins Hotel at a World War II museum in New Orleans. One of the company’s most ambitious projects commenced in late 2014. Langdon Wilson International hired UltraGlas to create nearly 3 acres worth of permanently colored, translucent, back-lighted glass installed as the exterior façade of the sixth-largest hospital in Kuwait City. UltraGlas came up with 5,000 5-foot square half-inch thick glass panels permanently colored and heat tested. “We did it in about 10 months,” she said. “They needed a material that they can illuminate at night with aqua and teal colors and also work as the hospital’s façade.” From the shower door market to signage, Skeeter enjoys her profession. “I love the creativity, the engineering, coming to a solution so that it fits the needs of a décor and be functional and safe and fit within the budget,” she said. Skeeter’s company has garnered numerous awards, including 2012 Small Business of the Year from the 23rd State Senate District, and, more recently, 2017 VICA Business Hall of Fame. She was a 2017 and 2018 Fernando Award finalist. A West Valley resident since 1959, when she lived in Canoga Park, Skeeter — who celebrates her 46th wedding anniversary this week and has six grandchildren — said her company’s Chatsworth location is ideal for a very simple reason. “I live in West Hills, so I didn’t want to go very far,” she said.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.

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