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James Hardie launching fiberglass window business

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

April 29, 2014

James Hardie Industries SE has started a new Chicago-based division called Beechworth Windows to manufacture high-end fiberglass windows and patio doors at a former Weather Shield Manufacturing plant in Ladysmith, Wis.

Justin Elick, who is in charge of business development for Beechworth Windows, describes the division as an independently managed subsidiary of its parent company, which has several international offices and a North American base in Mission Viejo, Calif.

James Hardie, which claims it invented fiber-cement siding in the 1980s as an alternative to wood and vinyl, hinted that is was pursuing a business platform outside of its core product line when it purchased the fiberglass assets of Teel Plastics in Baraboo, Wis., two years ago.

Since then, the company purchased the Ladysmith plant, where the first Beechworth products are being made for the replacement window market in the Midwest while a sales team comes together.

“We’re still in the early stages of building the business up,” Elick said in a telephone interview. “There will be specific markets we will start off with. Right now we’re kind of keeping our powder dry with regards to where we’re going and how we’re going to do it.”

In a follow-up email, Elick said Beechworth products will have a fiberglass exterior for strength, durability and low maintenance and a wood interior to compliment or improve the look of any room.

The Beechworth mission is to offer a “replacement windows solution with refined aesthetics and reliable performance,” Elick added.

The subsidiary is a few months away from a formal launch. In addition to rounding out its manufacturing and marketing operations, Beechworth and Weather Shield have to finalize a parking lot lease with the Ladysmith Common Council.

While national distribution isn’t being discussed, Elick said Beechwood officials will track the start-up company’s progress to determine “the best and most efficient path for growth.”

In its March 2014 investor presentation, James Hardie cites the introduction of differentiated products as a way to achieve a competitive advantage. The presentation also says net sales were about $1.5 billion in 2013.