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It has been roughly one year since Caldwell Manufacturing Co. announced it was ending manufacturing operations here. But the Ogden-based firm is continuing to grow, focusing on new product development and expanding its geographic reach, while placing a local emphasis on research, development and engineering.
"We are committed to this area and plan to keep our technical base here," Eric Mertz, president and CEO, said this week.
Caldwell produces window counterbalance systems and related components. The company's headquarters has been in the Rochester area since its inception in 1888. Caldwell also has facilities in Maryland, Mexico and England, along with distribution centers in Florida and Texas. Roughly one-third of Caldwell's business is with international customers, Mertz said.
Local manufacturing ended last April, with the work moving to Caldwell's plant in Williamsport, Md. A total of 45 workers were laid off last year, Mertz said, and the majority of those people worked in Ogden. Some worked at the Maryland and Mexico plants, he said.
Caldwell sells to window manufacturers, many of which have moved to the South in the past several years, Mertz said. Being closer to customers means faster turnaround time.
Last year, Mertz said the plants in Ogden and Maryland had been operating at roughly 30 percent of capacity because of the softening economy, especially a downturn in the housing market, and it did not make sense to keep both operating.
The local site remains Caldwell's headquarters and houses workers including salespeople covering North America, finance and administration, research, development and engineering for North America, purchasing and manufacturing support services, such as logistics.
Mertz declined to say how many people work at Caldwell, but he said roughly 15 percent of the firm's total head count is local. He has said there were fewer than 100 workers prior to the layoffs.
The company is looking for a smaller space because its 127,000-square-foot building is now too big, he said.
While there is a large concentration of customers in the South, Mertz said, Caldwell has roughly 600 customers across the country, so keeping its headquarters in the area makes sense.
Decreasing demand for some products has plagued Caldwell since 2000. Local employment has dropped from 205 in 2001. In 2005, Caldwell announced it was moving its manufacturing operations in Jackson, Miss., to its plant in Mexico.
Mertz said the firm has had to deal with the global recession.
"The markets we serve couldn't be much more depressed," Mertz said of the housing and construction markets over the last 18 months. "It dramatically changed the landscape of the business."
In response, Caldwell has focused on new products. Last year, the firm introduced two lines: One allows customers to balance window sashes weighing as much as 130 pounds, and the other is a line that gives customers more environmentally friendly products that use less material and are more efficient.
The company landed 20 new customers in 2009 and is focusing on more ways to be efficient this year, he said.
"We have a plate full of product and process innovations to better serve our customers," Mertz said.
He is anticipating a slow market recovery this year, noting that the replacement window industry is rebounding somewhat. There is also the possibility of adding to the local work force as Caldwell continues to focus on new product development.
While he would not provide any financial data, Mertz said Caldwell "is not at all disappointed with the company's performance in 2009."
Mertz, who is based in Ogden, was named Caldwell's president in 2008, succeeding Edward Boucher, who remained with the company in the new positions of chief business development officer and vice chairman. Boucher is focusing on long-term strategies, including expanding its geographic footprint.
James Boucher, Edward's brother and former Caldwell president and CEO, remains chairman.
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