A longtime local window maker is looking for ways to grow again.
By IAN HILL
and CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
AUSTINTOWN -- David Ditzler wants Mahoning Valley contractors to know that it doesn't have to be a big pane to buy windows for a construction project.
Vinylume Products Inc. is only a short drive away from most area construction sites, said Ditzler, an Austintown Township trustee.
Vinylume has been making windows on Henricks Road in Austintown since 1994. In 1999, the company received a seven-year, 47 percent inventory tax abatement from Mahoning County that allowed it to expand.
The abatement agreement required Vinylume to add 20 new jobs to its 68-person work force by this year, but Ditzler said the company hasn't been able to meet that goal.
"They've fallen on some hard times, but they've maintained the 68 jobs," he said.
Ditzler and representatives from The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber recently met with Vinylume officials to discuss the abatement agreement.
"We weren't there to beat them up, we were there to find out why [they haven't met the employment goal] and what we could do to help them," Ditzler said.
Vinylume has a long history in the Mahoning Valley.
The company was founded in 1964 as a two-person shop called White & amp; White Aluminum Awning Co. in Girard.
Starting out as an aluminum awning and porch railing installer, it eventually switched to vinyl window making, purchasing the plastic extrusions from suppliers.
Founder Jack White, now 72, was joined in the business by his son, Orlando, now 45.
As the company grew, it moved several times, locating in Struthers and Youngstown before settling in its 200,000-square-foot Austintown factory. Workers produce the extrusions themselves by machine, starting with a powdered vinyl product.
About the business
Vinylume sells its windows and patio doors to home-improvement contractors and home builders, and also makes plastic window extrusions and sells them to other small window-making companies.
"We've helped as many as 50 other companies get started, companies that can't make the extrusions themselves," Orlando White said.
In fact, extrusion sales make up about 75 percent of the company's business, with window sales making up the remaining 25 percent. The company sells its extrusions to small companies and start-ups in 15 states outside the area, and it sells its windows within a 50-mile radius.
The Whites said they've steadily improved their product and feel confident their windows are as good or better than the highly advertised national brands. The windows are now offered in several exterior colors, with two wood-grain choices for the interior.
Jack White noted that the company recently made substantial improvements in the energy efficiency of its windows, earning an Energy Star rating from the National Fenestration Rating Council.
Still, the Whites said business has been slow for months, and though they've been able to maintain employment, they haven't been able to justify adding workers.
"Two years ago we were six weeks behind on our orders. We were that busy," Orlando White said. "Now it's two weeks."
For their part, the Whites say they're hoping more local homeowners and area contractors will start checking out local businesses like Vinylume before they buy.
"We're so grateful for all the customers we've had locally over the years," Orlando White said, "Now we're just hoping to get more people to think of asking their contractor for Vinylume instead of going with one of the big national companies."
Greg Sherlock, vice president of media and communications for the chamber, said chamber representatives will meet with Vinylume officials to help determine what the company needs to meet the employment goal.
Sherlock said the chamber's staff includes communication and marketing specialists, and he said that the chamber may refer Vinylume to a local public relations firm.
"They're trying to get their name out in front of everybody," said Tom Presby, the chamber's Mahoning County development manager. "We try to do whatever we can to help them along."
Vinylume also will have access to the chamber's database of about 2,600 local businesses that could serve as clients or marketing contacts, Sherlock said.
"It's got a lot to offer," Sherlock said.