Volume 10, Issue 5 - May/June 2009

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Vice President Biden Visits Republic Windows

Vice President Joe Biden visited Chicago’s Republic Window and Doors (now Serious Materials) on April 27 to illustrate how the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has had an impact. He was accompanied by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Roland Burris and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. The plant isn’t up and running yet, but Serious was preparing to re-open and had begun slowly bringing back more workers. Approximately a dozen re-hired plant workers were on-hand for the event.

Serious Materials president Kevin Surace said the plant’s re-opening “will bring life back to American manufacturing. Without the Recovery Act this would not have been possible.”

“What I have seen here today at Serious Materials Chicago inspires me and brings to life the real impact the Recovery Act is already having, just in the short time since our work began,” said Biden.

“We’re not measured by a jump in the gross domestic product,” added Biden. “But by the men and women who will come back to work here.”

He also said he’d like to come back to the plant in the future.

“I hope I’m invited back when 600 workers are working three shifts.”

That visit may be a long way off, but the workers who have been re-hired say they long for that day as well, including Armando Robles, a maintenance worker at the factory and president of UE Local 1110, who spoke with DWM magazine.

“This is great for us,” said Robles. “We hope that all our workers will come.”Melvin Maclin, vice president of the union, added that he looks forward to the new ownership.

“During a time when other companies are going out of business, Serious is expanding,” he said. “We never gave up hope that we would come back.”

Other employees re-hired recently include site manager Kevin Heylin. He worked for Republic for 16 years, and though he left briefly to work for another window company, he said he is thrilled to be back.

Heylin shares the hope of workers such as Robles that more workers will return.

“I share their feelings that we won’t be truly satisfied until all [the] workers come back,” he said.

Though this Republic may be slightly different. For one, Surace says the bulk of windows produced here (70 percent) will be for commercial applications.

“We’re trying to drive government sales,” added Heylin. “There is a lot of stimulus money for this and it’s just another opportunity to sell a more efficient window.”

Pete Kovacik was hired as commercial sales manager for the Midwest region, and worked previously for Traco.

“We are looking at some innovative things for heavy commercial and it will manufacture these with the most energy-efficient materials,” he said.

Surace says the plant already has the capabilities to produce commercial glass. It has three glass lines and even a tempering line in house. “They [the former owners] invested heavily,” said Surace.

He adds that commercial windows are what Serious does best. “We’ve done 10,000 commercial projects,” he said. “We have the largest research and development team in the window space,” he added. “We have things coming out that are truly stunning.”

But the road leading to Biden’s visit was not an easy one. Chuck Wetmore, director of operations for Serious, told DWM that seven trucks from the former owners on their way to Echo Windows (the company set up by former Republic owner Richard Gilman that is now out of business), arrived back at the Chicago plant in February. According to Wetmore the trucks never made it to the Echo facility in Iowa as they were stopped and turned around by state police.

“A lot of stuff was flipped over. Some newer equipment doesn’t even work,” he said.

Congressman Visits Viwinco Window Plant 
U.S. Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) visited a Viwinco plant in Morgantown, Pa., in April. He visited with company president David Barnes, who also gave Gerlach a tour of the plant.The company also held a town-hall-style meeting for employees to meet with the congressman, who also provided a legislative update and answered questions.

“This business is more involved and complicated than people realize,” said Gerlach as he toured the facility.

G-U to Consolidate North American Distribution in Montreal 
G-U Hardware Inc. has announced plans to consolidate its United States distribution operation in Newport News, Va., with the company’s Canadian division located in Montreal, Quebec.

“Our Newport News facility has worked out very nicely for us since we opened here in 1987,” says general manager Yvon Soucy. “The fact is that our Montreal facility has enough capacity to easily provide service to all of our customers throughout North America. The Montreal facility also provides manufacturing capabilities helping us with shorter lead times for delivery. It’s basically a logistics decision that benefits our customers.”

G-U will maintain sales offices in both Newport News as well as in Medford, Wis.

The consolidation is anticipated to be complete within 90 days.

Serious Re-Opens Former Kensington Windows

Serious Materials, the new owner of the former Kensington Windows, reopened the Vandergrift, Pa., facility in a ceremony held in March. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, along with rehired Kensington employees, were on-hand to celebrate the reopening of the plant that closed abruptly in October when parent company Jancor Co. lost its financing and filed for bankruptcy. Approximately 25 former Kensington employees had been rehired before the ceremony, including Robin Scott, who spoke with a great deal of emotion at the event. The company plans to bring other employees back as orders increase.

Scott didn’t think the facility would be reopened under new management. “When I got the call from my friend Chuck [Chuck Wetmore, plant manager] to come back, my response was, ‘when and where?’”

He also joked, “I’m not a tree hugger by any means,” but that he was pleased to hear that Serious Materials, a company focused on energy-efficient windows, was the new owner.

Rendell echoed this sentiment. “I’m not a tree hugger either, but I know that saving energy will be crucial in the next 25 years,” he said.

He also used Kensington/ Serious as an example of government at work (referring to the stimulus package).

As another example, he pointed to the money allotted to weatherization of homes in the stimulus bill.

“We’ll do training so people learn how to weatherize homes,” he said. “That’s a lot of jobs that will be created.

”Serious president Kevin Surace told those in attendance about the company’s commitment to saving energy through its production of high R-value windows. Most windows are R2 or R3, says Surace.

“Five percent of all the energy in America literally goes out the window and we can change that,” says Surace, who says Serious windows have an R value of 11.

Good News for Another Former Jancor Company: Survivor to Reopen 

Survivor Technologies, formerly owned by bankrupt parent company Jancor, was scheduled to re-open by the beginning of May at press time, according to Jeff Benney, president of the company. The new company will be called Survivor II Inc., and will relocate from Hillside, N.J., to Elizabeth, N.J., says Benney.

“We will move from the former 200,000-square-foot facility to a more efficient 100,000-square-foot facility,” he says.

Benney says that a group of local businessmen joined with him to form the new company. The group is purchasing the assets, including raw materials, equipment and computers.

“Prior to the closing, Benney says the company had 330 employees and has hired back 20 thus far and will most likely re-open with about 60 employees.

“Most are pleasantly surprised at the opportunity to come back,” says Benney. “We will have our complete line-up of products.”

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