California firm to move window production to Vandergrift site

| Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012

Serious Energy Inc. plans to move production of energy-efficient windows from a Chicago plant that's on track to be closed or sold to its manufacturing plants in Vandergrift and Boulder, Colo.

The move is expected to have little impact on about 60 workers at the former Kensington Windows plant off River Road in Vandergrift, as demand for replacement windows and most other building products remains low.

"There is no change to operations there," Valerie Jenkins, spokeswoman for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, said on Friday, although a few more salespeople are being hired to serve customers out of the Vandergrift plant.

In Chicago, about 46 workers represented by the Electrical Workers union called off a brief sit-in on Thursday after getting word that the plant would close.

"This was a "misunderstanding," Jenkins said, adding that the Chicago plant remains open, and Serious Energy and the union are working together to explore options, including finding a buyer.

The company invested aggressively in the Chicago plant, "but because of economic conditions, the building materials sector was hard-hit, specifically windows," she said.

The sit-in evoked memories of a 2008 incident that made national headlines at the Chicago plant. Workers at what then was Republic Windows and Doors refused to leave after owners gave notice just a few days before Christmas that the plant was closing.

In January 2009, Serious Energy acquired the assets of Kensington Windows, a few months after then-owner Jancor Companies Inc. of Ohio filed for bankruptcy and closed the plant. There were 150 workers prior to the closing.

Serious Energy then installed equipment and gradually hired back some ex-Kensington employees. Production there, with a nonunion workforce, focuses on high-insulating replacement windows for homes, primarily in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic region and part of the Southeast.

"It's a phenomenal facility with great customers who have always bought from there," Jenkins said. "The workers are wonderful" with some who have been there for their entire careers, she added, and the plant is becoming more efficient, with production at a high level now as windows are made for summer projects.

Privately owned Serious Energy does not disclose sales or production figures, although it boasts some recent high-profile projects such as replacing more than 6,500 windows in the Empire State Building in 2010 to improve energy efficiency. The company also has a California plant that makes soundproof drywall.

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