Between the springtime call to home renovation and new tax credits available for energy-efficient home improvements, window manufacturers are gearing up for what is promising to be a busy and productive spring.

“We’re hopeful that the increased product demand we’re now seeing will help us return more employees back to work in the coming weeks,” says Mark Wherry, vice president of manufacturing for Simonton Windows. The company recently hired back 110 employees to its West Virginia and Illinois facilities, and is actively seeking to hire employees at its Oklahoma facility.

Similarly, according to an article yesterday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Andersen Windows has hired back 180 employees, thanks to an uptick in business that the company believes is related to interest in new tax credits. Andersen had laid off 560 employees in January.

Back to Capacity
Additionally, Pella Corporation has told REMODELING that during the week of April 27, the company will ramp up production in its facilities in Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa, which had cut back to a four-day workweek for about 3,900 of the company’s 8,600 total employees.

“We’re thankful for our team members’ flexibility,” says Kathy Krafka-Harkema, Pella Corporation’s corporate public relations manager. “We believe in people first, and we know it’s easier for companies go to through and make massive layoffs, but we wanted to retain our skilled people.”

Krafka-Harkema says that the four-day workweek, which was implemented in late 2008, allowed the company to reduce expenses, but kept employees’ benefits in place. “Winter is always a slow time of year, but when consumers paused in spending during the fourth quarter of last year, it had a rollover effect into the first quarter of this year,” she says. “Now that temperatures are picking up and interest is increasing, we’re expecting production to do the same.”

Governor Edward Rendell (center left) and Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace (center right) reopen the former Kensington Windows plant in Pennsylvania.
Serious Materials Governor Edward Rendell (center left) and Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace (center right) reopen the former Kensington Windows plant in Pennsylvania.

Getting Serious
Employees of what had been Kensington Windows in Vandergrift, Pa., are also back to work this month after Serious Materials recently took over ownership. The factory closed its doors six months ago, leaving more than 150 workers unemployed. The staff members have since been rehired to manufacture the new energy-efficient SeriousWindows product line. “We will get this economy back on track,” said Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace during the plant’s re-dedication and green-ribbon cutting ceremony two weeks ago. “We are going to get serious about efficiency and we are going to bring a new life to American manufacturing.” In addition to the Kensington plant, court approval of Serious Materials’ acquisition of the former Republic Windows plant in Chicago was received last month.

“When I was told Serious Materials was going to buy the place [Kensington], I was on cloud nine,” says newly re-hired employee Robin Scott. “I want my kids to recognize the bright future they can have in our country, and what better example is there than giving our workforce a fighting chance during rough times?”

Surace, Wherry, and Krafka-Harkema agree that in addition to the tradition increase in spring production, homeowners are showing more interest in window replacement projects thanks to new tax credits outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “We’re hoping this provision will provide more incentive for homeowners to take advantage of this unique opportunity to invest in windows and save on their energy bills,” Wherry says.

Krafka-Harkema adds that many remodelers' and replacement contractors' schedules will be filling up in spring as well, making now an ideal time for consumers to connect with their remodelers. “We think the tax credits are going to help heighten awareness of people to think about replacing windows and doors, but it’s just a one-time opportunity” she says. “The bigger opportunity is replacing those worn-out or drafty windows to help save on monthly utility bills far into the future. With the nicer weather, and the availability of contractors and products, we hope that people are remembering that their home is an eternal investment.”