Vice President Biden Visits Republic WindowsApril 28th, 2009 by Editor
Vice President Joe Biden visited Chicago’s Republic Window and Doors (now Serious Materials) yesterday, along with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Roland Burris and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, to illustrate how the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has had an impact.The plant isn’t up and running yet, but Serious is preparing to re-open in the next month or so and slowly bring back more workers. Approximately a dozen re-hired plant workers were on-hand yesterday for this event.
Serious Materials president Kevin Surace says 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 Kevin Heylin, site manager. 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 last week as commercial sales manager for the Midwest region, and previously worked 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 by state police.
“A lot of stuff was flipped over. Some newer equipment doesn’t even work,” he said.
But Wetmore added that the company had other equipment in storage and is close to having the facility ready to make windows. In fact, a former dealer just placed an order and Wetmore said the company could be manufacturing those windows next week.
For more on yesterday’s event, CLICK HERE to read DWM editor/publisher Tara Taffera’s blog.
To view more photos and video from the event CLICK HERE.