Heated political arguments over the federal stimulus package haven't subsided, but window manufacturers are starting to see some results from the bill -- at least for now.
Three top window manufacturers, including Andersen Windows of Bayport, Minn., have seen an uptick in business in recent weeks that they credit, at least in part, to a tax break for installing more energy-efficient windows that's part of the federal stimulus package.
For Andersen, that meant recalling 180 of the 560 workers it laid off in January.
"Business has come back a little bit," said Andersen spokeswoman Maureen McDonough. In addition to the stimulus package, she attributed the increase to spring weather and sales promotions. "We were expecting the first half of the year to be down substantially, with some rebound coming in the second half."
The new tax break, for 2009 and 2010, allows a homeowner a credit of up to $1,500 for installing energy efficient windows.
Over the past two weeks, the 180 Andersen employees reported back to jobs at plants in Bayport and Cottage Grove. "As our orders increased, we were calling them back," she said. Andersen employs about 3,700 workers at those two facilities and a plant in Menomonie, Wis.
Privately held Andersen did not release any sales figures Wednesday, but McDonough said that even with the increase, sales remain down from early 2008.
Andersen isn't the only window company experiencing improvement. Simonton Windows, Parkersburg, W.Va., announced Wednesday that it had recalled 110 employees at plants in West Virginia and Illinois and is looking to hire at its Oklahoma plant. The company, which also noted that business improves in the spring, said it's seeing interest in replacement windows from homeowners because of the stimulus program.
Andersen, Simonton and Marvin Windows, Warroad, Minn., all are using the tax break in their marketing.
Marvin spokesman John Kirchner said that the tax credit is attracting interest in Marvin windows, including Infinity-brand windows made in Fargo, N.D. "Infinity has seen an increase in orders that meet the criteria to get the tax credit," Kirchner said Wednesday.
However, the family-owned company still expects 2009 sales to be smaller than last year. Marvin, established as a lumber company in 1912, has not laid off workers. In winter, Kirchner said, Marvin employees typically work 32-hour weeks for eight to 12 weeks. This year, the reduced-hour weeks are expected to last longer.
Andersen's McDonough said multiple groups within the housing market are interested in making window and door purchases this year. In addition to those staying put and upgrading the windows in their homes, she said, many people who are buying foreclosed houses need to buy new windows.
"We are hopeful that some of these federal programs will make a big difference," she said. While better sales in the past few weeks is welcome news at Andersen, McDonough added that "it's too early to tell whether there's a trend."
Liz Fedor • 612-673-7709