Devastated by the Great Recession, windows and doors manufacturer Andersen Corp. hunkered down in recent years and tried to weather the housing market’s spectacular bust as best it could.
But as the nation’s economy steadily improves, the company on Wednesday announced an $18 million plant expansion — a move that will create at least 100 jobs at its Bayport operations along the St. Croix River.
“We see more upside in the future than risk, so we’re investing,” Andersen CEO Jay Lund said in an interview.
The expansion involves improving an existing building at the company’s sprawling 3-million-square-foot complex, parts of which date back a century, and purchasing new machinery.
Both will facilitate a ramp-up in production of the popular Andersen 100 series of windows, originally designed for southern and western markets and sold for a lower price point than its signature products. Launched in 2009, the 100 line “was very successful; we sold our millionth unit last year. So we’re seeing lots of opportunity for growth,” Lund said.
With the product’s growing popularity, particularly in the Midwest, Lund said adding manufacturing capacity is critical.
The state of Minnesota helped in the site-selection process by awarding Andersen $625,000 from the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s job creation fund — a figure that is tied to certain performance goals. The fund is among $24 million in business incentives pitched by Gov. Mark Dayton and approved during the 2013 legislative session.
“We are very grateful that this great Minnesota company has chosen to expand its manufacturing facility in Bayport, creating 100 more good-paying jobs for Minnesota workers,” Dayton said in a statement.
The news comes as the window and door industry — which was ravaged in the economic downturn — has seen a steady comeback.
“New construction is picking up, but some people are staying in their houses and improving them [with new windows],” said Jeffrey Lowinski, vice president of technical services for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), a trade group. “The recovery was slow, but it’s been steady.”
At the market’s peak in 2006, 67 million window units were shipped, a figure that dropped to 39 million in 2009. The forecast for this year is 51 million units, according to WDMA.
Many smaller companies in the business shut down during tough times, some merged with others, or were acquired, and some shifted their product mix to survive. Although it is North America’s largest manufacturer of windows and doors, Andersen was not spared from the recession’s ravages. In good times, the company employed 14,000 at operations in North America, but that number has dwindled to 9,000. The most recent layoff in Bayport was in November 2011, when 250 people were let go.
On average, the new jobs will pay $19 an hour, including benefits, and most will be full-time positions, the privately held company said.
“This is the first time in about 15 years that we have made a major investment in Bayport, so it’s a shot in the arm,” Lund said. “It’s our flagship plant.”
Andersen was founded in 1903 in Hudson, Wis., by Danish immigrant Hans Andersen and his family, and moved to what is now Bayport 10 years later.