U.S. Aluminum is back in business, says CRL president

Glass Magazine
July 19, 2011
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : BUSINESS

Q&A with Lloyd Talbert, president of C.R. Laurence


Lloyd TalbertHow long do you anticipate it will be until U.S. Aluminum is back up and running?

As of yesterday, we are back up and running at all but one U.S. Aluminum facility. We are moving the Los Angeles facility to a new building across the street from our manufacturing headquarters, and we anticipate opening in the next week or so. The other nine facilities were open for business yesterday morning. We are pleased that we were able to make this acquisition, and pleased with the quality of the employees.

How does the acquisition of U.S. Aluminum fit into the overall strategic plan for C.R. Laurence?

We look at ourselves as an industry leader in respect to maintaining a strong industry. Some things that have happened in the glazing industry, with [Arch Aluminum & Glass Co.] and [Vitro America], we see as being negative for our industry. This acquisition fits into our strategy in terms of maintaining a strong glazing industry—bringing U.S. Aluminum to where it was formerly is good for the industry.

We didn't necessarily have a strategic vision of getting into storefront. It was a peripheral market for us. We estimate that a high percentage of our customers do work in this area, but it was not eminent in our plans. However, when this [opportunity] came up, we thought it made strategic sense for us.

How will U.S. Aluminum be different under the CRL umbrella? Will CRL maintain all U.S. Aluminum locations?

We didn't know a lot about U.S. Aluminum previously. We certainly knew of them, but we dealt more with International Extrusion, [another subsidiary of International Aluminum Corp.]. We have heard that over the last couple of years the service of U.S. Aluminum did suffer, and that's something that C.R. Laurence prides itself in. We will bring the service-oriented focus back.

Additionally, C.R. Laurence maintains an engineering focus, and we will no doubt bring that over to U.S. Aluminum. John Frey was operating as chief engineer, and we have been really impressed with him. I don't think they had a very deep engineering organization, so we're looking at building synergy there with our existing engineering capabilities, and I think it will be a good match. This is a technical industry, with new codes that you have to stay up to date with. The blast-resistant market, for example, is one important part of the business where we will put these resources.

We will keep all but one U.S. Aluminum location—the Jessup, Md., location doesn't fit into our plan. However, the other five manufacturing facilities will be maintained. In the mid-term, we are also looking at additional service center locations. For example, in the Northeast and Canada, U.S. Aluminum has no presence.

I understand C.R. Laurence is looking to rehire former U.S. Aluminum employees. Is that process currently underway, and how many employees are you looking to retain?

We first contacted the senior management from U.S. Aluminum, as we wanted to maintain those positions. Tom Harris, [who had served as executive vice president of U.S. Aluminum], is now president of the division. And his number two guy is Patrick Lowrey. When they came on board, we went to all the facilities and interviewed the upper management there and offered jobs to everyone available. Once we had the senior management in place, we put out inquiries for employees in other areas of the company. That process is currently underway. So far, we have hired back about 40 to 45 percent of the old staff and are continuing to hire. Over the next couple of weeks, we will continue to hire more employees. We don't have a set target of how many or in what positions, as we don't know yet what areas were thin or overstaffed. We just know that we will continue to hire staff. At the end of the day, we anticipate that 150 to 200 jobs will be saved through the acquisition.

Will U.S. Aluminum customers continue to have the same sales representatives?

By and large, customers will continue to have the same sales representatives. C.R. Laurence typically works through employee representatives, and we have the intention to continue that. As of now, we have hired 12 reps that were formerly with U.S. Aluminum.

What message do you want to send to U.S. Aluminum customers? What about customers who had jobs underway when the company filed for bankruptcy?

The message is that we're back in business and we're looking forward to re-establishing U.S. Aluminum as one of, if not the, preeminent brand in storefront. Hopefully we will be able to bring the business practices from C.R. Laurence to U.S. Aluminum. ... We are meeting with U.S. Aluminum customers through a very robust outreach program. We want to know what they liked about U.S. Aluminum, so we can continue those practices, and what they didn't like, so we can take their criticism and make some changes.

We sympathize and empathize with those customers who had jobs underway. That's not an easy situation. We will do what we can with the jobs that are still active and move those to the front of the line. For the jobs that have gone by the wayside, where customers found other suppliers, we understand. Hopefully we will be able to regain their trust.