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Ohio company to buy Indiana County window maker

| Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012

Window manufacturer Gorell Windows & Doors LLC is under agreement to be sold to an Ohio competitor after being placed in receivership as losses mounted, officials said on Wednesday.

Gorell, which has about 200 employees at its plant in White Township, Indiana County, will be acquired by Soft-Lite LLC of Streetsboro, a Cleveland suburb, for an undisclosed price, the companies said.

Meridian Group of Pittsburgh was appointed receiver by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward last week after PNC Bank pressed for repayment of $10.5 million owed by Gorell, according to court records.

The window manufacturer was losing about $500,000 a month, court records show. PNC said Gorell's finances were "precarious" and deteriorating "rapidly."

Soft-Lite President Roy Anderson visited employees at the plant yesterday, said Terry Witherow, president of the IUE-CWA local union that represents about 114 workers.

"Now there's a chance" the plant will stay open for the long term, Witherow said. He described Anderson's visit as "very vague" but somehow encouraging.

"He said he liked what was happening" on the plant floor, Witherow said, with everyone busy working.

Witherow said the International Union of Electrical Workers/Communication Workers of America local would be willing to reopen its contract if that kept jobs in Indiana County.

"We all need the jobs here," he said.

Another 146 nonunion jobs are at stake, Witherow said.

Margaret Good, president of the Meridian Group, said the total number of jobs at Gorell is about 200. Meridian Group is an investment banking and financial consulting firm that specializes in company turnarounds.

A year ago, Gorell officials said about 370 worked at the plant.

What happened to Gorell was not surprising, said Michael O'Brien, spokesman for the Window & Door Manufacturers Association, a Des Plaines, Ill.-based trade group.

The industry has been stressed since the onset of the mortgage and credit crisis in 2007. "A lot of companies reduced shifts and reduced wages, in an attempt to stay afloat," O'Brien said.

A $1,500 federal tax credit for residential installation of new windows and doors in 2009-10 helped to stabilize the industry in the short term, O'Brien said, but the credit ended on Dec. 31.

The national market for windows has declined about 40 percent since 2005, when about 70 million units were sold, the trade group has said. Today, about 70 percent of the new windows being sold are going into "refits," a reversal from when the building craze was at its zenith.

The company was founded by Wayne Gorell in the early 1990s. Gorell, who is retired in Charlotte, N.C., could not be reached for comment. Gorell's father founded Seasonal Industries Inc., a window company, in 1947.

Soft-Lite's Anderson said in a statement yesterday, "We are very excited about this acquisition and what it means for the company.

"It will allow Soft-Lite to expand its operations to better service our existing customers, to further grow our network of dealers and distributors and to offer a broader range of products and sales tools to our customers."

According to Meridian's Good, the discussions with Soft-Lite were under way by Friday, a day after Gorell was placed in receivership and for sale. By Sunday night, she said, lawyers were working on a purchase contract. Good described Soft-Lite as "very strong financially." That was the reason the deal moved as quickly as it did, she said.

Union leader Witherow said he was "cautiously optimistic" about Gorell remaining in Indiana. "I hope it happens," he said.

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