MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The White House stimulus package has opened a window of opportunity for one business that had been in the slump because of the slow housing market. Some of the nation's largest window manufacturers have seen an increase in business, sparked at least in part by a new tax credit for installing energy-efficient windows.
That change in fortune led Andersen Windows of Bayport, Minnesota, to rehire some of the 560 workers who were just laid off in January. One hundred eighty Andersen employees will now return to work.
Jim Humphrey is the CEO of Andersen Windows and he joins us now from his office in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota. Welcome to the program.
Mr. JIM HUMPHREY (CEO, Andersen Windows): Thank you. It's nice to be with you today.
NORRIS: Now, this is a rare bit of good news right now; rehiring employees so soon after they had just been sent home from the factory floor.
Mr. HUMPHREY: It's great news. Any time we can bring some of our associates back to work, that's always great news. And we were very excited about this opportunity to bring them back.
NORRIS: Is this uptick in business largely due to the tax credit or are other factors at work?
Mr. HUMPHREY: I don't think we're quite ready to be able to say that the uptick was due solely to the energy tax credit, but I do believe it had an impact. I think there's really three pieces to why we brought back these associates and why we would hope to bring back more in the coming months is - the first is that the window and door business is a seasonal business, so we do see some cyclical nature that takes place every year. The second is that we think we're doing a number of things that are kind of our own Andersen stimulus package to give our customers a competitive advantage. And then, I do believe the stimulus package is the third part around energy, along with some of the other stimulus bills that have passed.
NORRIS: The stimulus bill has led to this tax credit for people who install these energy-efficient products. It sounds like Andersen and many other window companies are building entire ad campaigns around these tax credits.
Mr. HUMPHREY: What we're trying to do is to find ways of exposing the consumer to this opportunity, which we think is an extremely good way of enhancing the value of their home, cutting down on their heating and cooling bills, and also doing the right thing and conserving energy for us as a country.
Within 48 hours of the bill being passed, we were able to get information up on our Web site telling consumers about it, explaining what products will and will not qualify. And we're still getting clarification from the government on products that qualify and don't qualify.
NORRIS: It sounds like there's a little bit of confusion surrounding these tax credits. Do consumers really understand how they work? And did the government do a good sales job on its own, or did they leave that to companies like yours?
Mr. HUMPHREY: To comment whether or not the government did a good or bad job or not, I'm not quite sure we know yet, okay? There's no doubt that we could have done a better job our self, Andersen, if we would have known more about the bill. But that's always, you know, hindsight is always 20/20. But what we are trying to do is take more of this responsibility on our self to get information out to the consumer.
I will tell you there are still parts of the bill that are being interpreted. And I believe that all manufacturers will be able to provide better information to consumers as we get a little bit more understanding of the code.
NORRIS: I want you to help me clarify something, because a lot of times when people purchase windows, the purchase is actually made through a contractor. So, does the homeowner get the tax credit or does the contractor get the tax credit? And if it goes to the homeowner, how do they make sure that they get credit for it?
Mr. HUMPHREY: The homeowner receives the credit and the homeowner has to apply for the credit, okay? The contractor would provide them with the labels and things that identify that these are products that qualify, and then the consumer would be the one that would be responsible for filing and would also be the one to receive that tax credit.
NORRIS: So, 180 workers are now back at work. When would you make a decision about when or how you might bring more employees back?
Mr. HUMPHREY: We monitor workloads on a weekly basis. So, you know, it could be as early as two, three weeks from now, it could be later. I think all of us in the window and door industry, as well as anybody in building products industry right now, is just waiting to see what uptick is seasonal and what uptick is the beginning of the market to stabilize.
NORRIS: Mr. Humphrey, thanks so much.
Mr. HUMPHREY: Thank you very much. I appreciate it and I appreciate the opportunity.
NORRIS: Jim Humphrey is the CEO of Andersen Windows and he joined us from his office in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota.
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