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Reprinted from the Cumberland Times-News

Squeaky Clean

Cumberland man starts association for professionals that keep windows sparkling

By Mona Ridder, Times-News Staff Writer

Sunday, October 30, 2005 1:31 PM EST

Jack Nelson cleans a window at a home on Braddock Road.

(Photo credit: John A. Bone/Times-News)

Window cleaners are among those people the general public takes for granted, never really seeing and only know they aren't there when the job isn't done.

Jack Nelson, a professional window cleaner for 25 years in the Cumberland area, thinks it's about time window cleaners established their professionalism and he hopes to share his knowledge and expertise, as well as that of others, with the upcoming in the industry through a new association.

"When I started in the cleaning business in 1980 I had a partner and we never dreamed it would grow big enough to support one or both of us," said Nelson. "It was just a second job."

But over the last 25 years Nelson's company has grown to the point that he has more than 400 regular residential customers and over the years has cleaned for more than 100 different businesses. "I have cleaned for two different mayors of Cumberland and one former mayor in Frostburg," he said of his clientele.

"You won't find a single window cleaner in the local telephone book," Nelson said. "But that's because I'm mobile and use a cell phone so when I get a call we can schedule it right from the truck." He said he had requested that Verizon list his cell phone in the yellow pages of the telephone directory. "They said they would but when it came out it wasn't there," he said.

Nelson said the idea of the association was generated among four window cleaners who corresponded via the Internet.

"None of them wanted to invest in it, so I did," he said. "I knew it was a good idea and now less than two years later we have more than 90 members.

The Master Window Cleaners of America was formed in January 2004.

Nelson said that an article in the September-October issue of American Window Cleaner, the independent window cleaners' professional magazine, explains what the association does and how it differs from the International Window Cleaners Association.

Master Window Cleaners President B.A. Autery of Texas said that the difference lies in the fact that the new organization specifically represents the residential and route window cleaner.

"We want to specialize in this area of the industry," he said, explaining that his associates usually work on buildings under three stories. "Working under three stories accounts for the majority of all window cleaners everywhere."

The biggest difference Nelson said is that the IWCA focuses on larger companies and their membership dues are $250 a year, while the MWCoA is $50 a year.

Nelson said the membership, just via Internet communication, has expanded to about half of the United States and in seven different countries - Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.

"Once the article in AWC, which has a circulation of 9,000, comes out I would expect membership to double or triple," said Nelson.

He said that the goal of the organization is to improve the professionalism of the industry.

"For example," I'll be at a seminar in California next week where the focus will be on two problems we have as window cleaners, the first is fabricating debris on glass and scratch glass repair," Nelson said. He said that fabricating debris from the manufacture of glass is a problem for window cleaners because when the glass is cleaned the debris material from its manufacture scratches the surface of the glass.

Other issues that the new association will address are those relating to occupational safety and standards, through education, training, communication and assistance, said Autery.

"We had a member join the other day who has just gotten started, and I mean just started, about two weeks into his new career," said Autery.

And that's one of the people Nelson said he hopes the association will be of most assistance to. "We want to specialize in what we call "newbies," people with less than two years' experience," he said. "The opposite side of the coin, we have another member who has been in this business for more than 30 years," said Autery. "We have everyone in between, all special and all willing to help each other. "

The association plans to recognize its members with a rewards program that honors the Window Cleaner of the Month with a cash award as well as the Window Cleaner of the Year.

Nelson said the association has a Web site that was developed locally by Willetts Enterprises and additional information may be found on the site at www.mwcoa.com. "Also one of our sponsors is Unger - they manufacture professional window cleaning equipment and six window cleaners in our association do the field testing for them," he said.

In addition to Autery and Nelson, who is director of the association, other officers include Don Chute of Georgia, vice president, and Howard Connet of Arizona, secretary and Webmaster.

Mona Ridder can be reached at mridder@times-news.com.

Copyright © 2005 Cumberland Times-News