U.S. Aluminum Bankruptcy Filing Means Anger, Opportunity and More
May 17, 2011

Last week’s news that United States Aluminum, along with its parent, International Architectural Group LLC, and sister companies, closed their doors and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, was a surprising, sad announcement for some in the commercial glass and glazing industry.

“It was with deep regret that we learned of the Chapter 7 filing and closing of International Aluminum Corp operations including U.S. Aluminum and our best wishes go out to all of the dedicated employees affected by the news,” says Oliver Stepe, senior vice president of YKK AP America Inc. “I had the opportunity to get to know the company’s founder, Cornelius Vanderstar (Editor’s note: C.C. Vanderstar was a 1999 inductee into the USGlass Metal & Glazing Hall of Fame)as well as some of the past senior executives such as industry icon J.D. Williams, when I was an employee of the company from 1989 to 1992. U.S. Aluminum had a rich and proud history that will not soon be forgotten.”

This sign was hung in the window of one U.S. Aluminum location shortly after filing for bankruptcy.

But Stepe adds, though, “At the same time, the fact that an adjustment in industry capacity occurred given reduced domestic demand for fenestration systems since 2009 is not a surprise.”

After the initial emotional responses to the news, Stepe says his company’s efforts turned toward addressing the needs of customers and architects to support material supply for distressed orders and projects.

“Starting May 11, and continuing each day, we are fielding calls and working with clients to address their needs. Recognizing the urgency for material supply on some projects in progress, within 24-hours teams from all areas of our company were already debriefed and mobilized to rapidly serve incoming needs of our customers,” says Stepe. “We established added capacities and a "Code Red" system approach to identify orders for distressed projects. Our goal is to offer a seamless transition of material supply for customers who need help and to keep projects under construction on schedule.”

A representative from one contract glazing firm who asked not to be identified, told USGNN.com, “The U.S. Aluminum announcement has no effect on us. I suspect with all of the excess metal capacity in the marketplace that their business will be absorbed by the other manufacturers with little consequence with the exception of timing.”

The USGNN.com™ message boards have also heated up with many comments about the news. Those posting on the site, many anonymously, commented under the subject heading “United States Aluminum Are Crooks.” In his post “Javier from N.C.” said “We got no notice about them closing doors down. We have outstanding orders not delivered. They knew this day was coming and they give us no warning? This is going to cause a lot of companies a lot of trouble and they can't give us a warning that this was going to happen?”

In response “Anon” posted, “for those that continued to purchase because the price was right ... You got what you paid for. Don't cry foul now, you failed as much as they did. Seriously, purchase from suppliers that can back up their commitments, price never equals cost, it's been said a million times yet, you went low in your bid and you took a business risk when you purchased from a company in chapter 11 ...”

In June 2010, International Aluminum Corp. emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as International Architectural Group. Its brands included United States Aluminum, RACO Interior Products, International Window and International Extrusion.

Court documents filed May 11 included more than 900 pages of creditors, though amounts owed had not yet been reported. These included Guardian Industries Corp., PPG Industries, Vitro America, AGC Glass Co., Haley Greer Inc., Harmon Inc., Trainor Glass Co. and numerous other glass shops and contract glazing companies.

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