When I retired as executive vice president of United States Aluminum Corp. in 2001, the annual sales volume was approximately $120 million. In 1980, we had three small factories, and by 2001, we had five large factories, plus 13 service centers located throughout the U.S. We struggled through some tough business cycles, but as a group, USAC and parent company International Aluminum Corp. maintained profitability.
After IAC was sold to Genstar Capital LLC in January 2007, the corporation went through additional ownership and reorganization. The International Architectural Products Corp. that recently filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy was a completely different company than the one that owned USAC from 1964 to January 2007.
It was sad for me and other long-time USAC employees to witness the demise of IAC, International Window, International Extrusion and United States Aluminum. I certainly understand how former USAC customers felt betrayed when Chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed. It was extremely difficult for me to see the US Aluminum name tarnished.
Going forward, my hope for USAC was for the future buyer to meet three criteria so that former employees could rebuild the company and re-establish customer confidence:
- Financial strength
- Understanding of the architectural aluminum market
- Top management with strong product knowledge
Don Friese and CRL meet all three criteria. CRL has grown its business very successfully over the past few years by adding many innovative new architectural product lines. That CRL will be expanding its product offering with additional storefront products is not a complete surprise to me. I was only surprised that its entry into the arena was by purchasing USAC.
Some architectural metal companies catering to the smaller glazing contractors may see this as a negative. Personally, I am not of that opinion. I only see this as a positive move. When YKK started its operation in the United States, many architectural aluminum companies were very vocal about YKK coming to the U.S. and only saw gloom and doom! YKK is a good competitor and forced some companies to cease taking things for granted. A business can be compared to a vegetable garden: "When it's green, it is growing; when it gets too ripe, it begins to rot." YKK forced all of us to remove the weeds from our garden to keep it green and growing.
Personnel at storefront manufacturers would be better served to concentrate on pointing out the good features of their products and service; and it does not hurt to point out the financial strength of their business. It is a poor business person who finds it necessary to criticize the products of the competition, their service or anything else to do with their performance. A prudent business person should wish that all of his competitors are profitable and growing their business.
--JD Williams is a former president of International Aluminum Corp. and was executive vice president of US Aluminum operations from 1981-2001.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.