Associated Materials LLC is investing $4.5 million in equipment at its vinyl window manufacturing plant in Kinston, N.C., and hiring 72 more employees to keep up with demand in the remodeling and new construction markets.
The facility makes a variety of brands but windows sold under the Alside and Mezzo names are among the most popular right now.
Based in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Associated Materials introduced the Mezzo line in early 2014. The windows are designed to meet increased 2016 Energy Star rating requirements for the northernmost zones of the United States.
However, the Mezzo appeal goes beyond energy efficiency, Dana Schindler, senior vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer, said in a telephone interview. The company is busy filling orders for custom colors and special shapes like quarter arches, triangles and trapezoids. A shape line is one of the equipment investments made in Kinston.
“We really needed to expand the workforce because of the popularity of some of the Mezzo options,” Schindler said. “Some of the windows we're replacing now are highly custom and we do it right there at the Kinston plant.”
Homeowners are taking advantage of all the design options offered, particularly when they are remodeling, she added.
“We've got something like 81 different interior and exterior color combinations. There are a lot of choices,” Schindler said. “I think it's a sign of the U.S. economy that people making are investments in their home. Rather than a simple white window they might choose one that has a wood grain on the interior and a special color on the outside. That's driving a lot of it.”
Profiles are extruded at the company's West Salem, Ohio, plant and shipped to Kinston for customization. Hiring is underway, and when all 72 positions are filled the facility will have 253 employees. Eventually, the Kinston workforce will exceed 300 full-time workers, Schindler said.
Counting seasonal, temporary workers, the Kinston plant has a current staff of 604, she added.
Associated Materials, which also makes vinyl siding, aluminum siding, trim and accessories, has 11 manufacturing facilities.
Window sales have been a bright spot this year. The company reported net sales of $331.2 million for the quarter ended July 4, which was up 3.6 percent over the prior year period. The sales growth was driven by the vinyl window business and attributable not only to a higher sales volume but an increase in selling prices.
Improved operations helped, too. In 2014 Associated Materials introduced two new window lines — Mezzo and Fusion, which target value-minded consumers — to good reviews, but manufacturing inefficiencies and launch expenses hurt the bottom line.