SRQ Magazine | BRANDSTORY: PGT Innovations April 2020

Page 1



AT PGT I NNO VAT I O NS, B UILDING PR O D UC TS T HAT PROTECT ULTI MAT E LY LE D T O B UILDING PR O D UCT S T HAT B ECKON. Thirty years ago, there was no such thing as an impact-resistant window or door. But following the devastation of Homestead, Florida from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a relatively new window and door manufacturer at the time took it upon themselves to pioneer the U.S. impact-resistant window and door segment. That manufacturer is now celebrating its 40-year anniversary as one of the most reputable and sought-after window and door innovators in the country – thanks to its commitment to keeping homeowners prepared for the next storm and for its innovative products that encourage homeowners to enjoy their indoor and outdoor spaces as one during more inviting weather. Rooted in the integration of engineering, design, technology

and functionality, PGT Innovations has a total of seven different high-quality brands under its corporate umbrella including PGT Custom Windows + Doors, CGI, WinDoor, Western Window Systems, Eze-Breeze, CGI Commercial, and NewSouth Window Solutions. Product benefits range from helping deter intruders, reducing outdoor noise, filtering 99% of UV light, significantly reducing cooling and heating costs, steadfast delivery and service, affordability, ahead-of-trend style and, arguably the most important, tried and trusted hurricane protection. Whether you are looking for the simplest of all window and door hurricane protection, a product that lets you be inside and outside simultaneously, or show-stopping door or window products that will have your neighbors asking for your design advice, PGT Innovations is your answer.


H U M B L E A N D FO R TUITO US BE GINNIN GS FROM PORCH ENCLOSURES, TO WINDOWS & DOORS, THE ROAD TO BECOMING A LEADING MANUFACTURER IN THE INDUSTRY MAY H AVE HAD SO METHING TO DO WITH REN TIN G A PLA NE. What many may not know, is that PGT Innovations’ humble beginnings were in the form of a porch enclosure company known as Vinyl Tech, started in 1980 with just three employees out of Venice. “What’s fascinating is, even as a small porch enclosure company, our founders Paul Hostetler and Rod Hershberger really held to a simple philosophy: provide phenomenal customer care and on-time delivery,” says Jeff Jackson, President and CEO. “They realized early on that in the building product space, to be on time with custom-made products and to listen closely and react quickly to what our customers needed was a tremendous differentiator.” According to Jackson, Vinyl Tech went its first two years with zero backorders “which was kind of easy to do because we were this little company with little sales,” he admits. But shortly into year three, they were about to have their very first backorder because one window of an order was left back at the plant. “It just didn’t make it on the delivery truck, and the driver delivered the order to a customer on the east coast of Florida with one unit short,” explains Jackson. “It would have been our first ever backorder of the company. So, Rod and the Sales Manager - Herb Reberger, who was also a pilot – rented a plane from the Venice airport, disassembled and loaded the window into the plane, and flew it to this customer by the end of the day. He said the customer looked at them like they were nuts and said, ‘I didn’t need it today. Tomorrow would have been just fine.’ To which Rod replied, ‘No. We told you today.’” Many stories like this ultimately developed a hyper-loyal customer base that often inquired what was keeping Vinyl Tech from expanding from porch enclosures to making their own window products. “Porch enclosures didn’t have any glass,” says Jackson. “We didn’t know anything about glass, but we were getting such a demand.” So Vinyl Tech decided, instead of making its own windows, they’d purchase them from partner suppliers and offer them alongside their porch

enclosure products. Except, one of the very first major deliveries was backordered from the supplier. “We couldn’t rent a plane. We couldn’t do anything to make it happen,” says Jackson. “We burned a lot of customers on this very early order. And just out of being so upset about that, we said, ‘We can do better.’” Upon learning how to develop two styles of windows and a door, and entering the market in 1987, the company began to establish a dealer network from the short sightings of their competitors—converting many dealers to do business with them as a new player in the game that ‘said what they did, and did what they said’. “Always being on time, always taking that extra step to know that any interruption in the business is a really big deal and holding that with care, always listening and gaining customers’ input on how things are going or what they want to see,” says Jackson. “I think that’s really been the key piece of what’s allowed us to continue to grow and continue to be the number one player in this space.”

Now known throughout the world as PGT Innovations, the company is one of the largest employers in Sarasota County with approximately 1,700 team members spread across an extensive manufacturing campus in Venice, FL and 3,300 team members in total throughout its six U.S. production locations.. Its campus houses two massive assembly plants, a 4.1-acre glass processing plant, its own fleet of 50+ delivery trucks, product testing areas, and the newly-built iLab—an innovative extension of the business that serves as a product incubator and micro-factory to create products that require new and inventive features and custom needs. Led by Dean Ruark, VP of Design Engineering & Innovation, the new iLab operations include developing prototypes, producing initial product builds, and, if needed, assisting in setting up mass-production plans for products.


For more information about PGT Innovations, visit




Though the company was a much smaller entity back in the 90s, PGT Innovations (known as PGT Industries, at the time) provided valuable support after a thread of bad storms—bringing hurricane relief supplies to impacted areas, sharing engineering insight about why homes fail during hurricanes, and offering forward-thinking solutions to protect against those failures. After Hurricane Andrew demolished much of Homestead, FL and the southeast coast of Florida in ‘92, the community acknowledged that repeated Category 4 and 5 storms were destroying entire neighborhoods, breaking windows and doors, driving water and debris into houses, blowing roofs off of homes, and causing devastating failures. “We were seeing all that time and time again,” says Dave McCutcheon, Sr. VP of Business Integration, who served as VP of Engineering back in the ‘90’s. Miami-Dade thought they had the strongest building code in the country. “They probably did,” says McCutcheon. But after Andrew hit, the city officials recognized that the code was not nearly strong enough, and not enforced well enough. PGT partnered with a team of government officials and a few other manufacturing companies to draft the rewrite of codes “we live and build by today,” says McCutcheon. As part of this recruited team, PGT traveled to Miami-Dade every single week to meet and discuss the elements of a new set of codes—one that would require “opening protection”. “Once Miami-Dade did it, the whole state of Florida started falling in line,” McCutcheon says. “By the early 2000s, all parts of Florida had come up to speed and started adopting those codes—though there are still none quite as stringent as Miami-Dade’s.”

In the meantime, many window manufacturers started working on how to make a window as strong as a concrete block wall, without having to use plywood or shutters—one that could withstand hurricane-force winds and was able to save lives and buildings. “At the time, there was no such thing,” says McCutcheon. “But after Andrew, engineers, researchers, and everyone in that area were asking, ‘How do we do better so something like this never happens again?’” PGT made it happen first, in 1994, receiving the very first NOA (Notice of Acceptance) from Miami-Dade County, approving the first impactresistant glass window product to ever be made, which would go on to be used in all areas of Florida, specifically High Velocity Hurricane Zones. “We initially blossomed, if you will, and got on the radar, because we were the first impact company,” shares McCutcheon. As four heavy-hitting hurricanes pounded Florida in the early 2000s, the awareness factor heightened even more, that really changed architects’ and builders’ mindsets. “Before, they were hesitant to adopt impact-resistant products as a standard,” says McCutcheon. “But then, people began hearing either their neighbors or their friends were installing them. The dynamics of dealing and distributing grew rapidly.”

CONTINUAL EVOLUTION Today, PGT Innovations continues to stay at the forefront of product development, looking for opportunities to further improve, “whether the code asks for it or not,” says Jackson, “because we have to continue to evolve as storms continue to get stronger. Our company is headquartered in Florida. We care about storms. But moreover, we care about the people who have to weather those storms.”

A FAMILY- C ENT RI C WO RKPLACE Whether stuck in an economic downturn or thriving in a robust housing market, PGT Innovations centers its internal focus on sustaining a quality workplace for its employees and giving back to its community. “I joined PGT Innovations during the heart of the housing downtown in the 2000s,” says Ruark. “The company had been a phenomenal growth company, and then we saw this downturn.” Through the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, Florida businesses were hit tremendously hard. “But despite it being such a difficult time, the company conducted itself with integrity and generosity,” Ruark says. The company never wavered from its core values: they continued caring for team members, making decisions with the customer first, and supporting the community. “Seeing the compa-

ny’s performance through that time was a phenomenal experience,” shares Ruark. “A lot of businesses act differently when times get really tough. It was cool to see how PGT conducted itself through that time—it made me have this admiration for a company that held true to its values in the toughest of times.” And then, as the economy grew back in 2012, many former employees came back as soon as they had the work again. “It was exciting being part of that growth story where past team members who weren’t able to stay with the company through that downturn were now back and building windows again.”

Debbie LaPinska, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, has been with the company for 28 years and says her “years of service” is a testament to the company. “Because you don’t necessarily stay with a company that long,” she says. “There’s got to be something really special about it, that would keep you here. A lot of the things that we do as a company are done because of how much we care for the people who work for us and because of our belief that you take care of your team members. It started with Paul and Rod, and it has carried on with Jeff, to a whole new level. He believes that you are only as good as the people who work for you and with you every day.” In a “pun intended” statement, LaPinska urges outsiders to come “open our doors,” see what’s at the heart of the company, get to know the culture of care that exists not only between team members and the customers, but extends to the entire community as a whole. “I think people generally want to work for a company that has a passion to do the right things and is very caring and giving,” says LaPinska. “It’s not just about business and the numbers, right? Where Hurricane Charley hit Charlotte County, FL in 2004, that was where 60% to 70% of our team member population lived. We made sure they were taken care of, even when we could not talk to them on the telephone because obviously power lines were down.” She recounted that after the company hired an airplane to fly over the community with a banner that said, ‘If you are a PGT employee, call this number’, they set up a recovery station nearby where the employees could get tarps, generators, water, food, and supplies, wash their clothes, and even get money to help them get by. “We told them, ‘the most important thing is to take care of your families, take care of your homes. Your job will be here when you get back’,” says LaPinska. Through several years of post-storm relief efforts since then and standing together through poignant hurricanes like Irma and Michael, PGT Innovations’ pillars of community and family have become stronger with every storm. “More so now,” says Jackson, “than really ever.”


1070 Technology Dr., North Venice, FL | 941-480-1600 | BRANDSTORY FEATURE | SRQ MAGAZINE | APRIL 2020