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Historical preservation drives Marlborough firm’s growth

Historical preservation drives Marlborough firm’s growth

WORCESTER BUSINESS JOURNAL – Strong interest in renovating old mill buildings and giving them a cleaner, but still traditional look has led to lots of activity at Universal Window and Door in Marlborough. The company specializes in commercial windows, mostly for historic projects.

President and CEO Tony Muraco spoke about the company’s growth, new products, and his hope to increase the workforce as business continues to come in.

What do you make?

We make commercial windows only, which are aluminum products. We don’t make wood or vinyl products for your home. We buy from a couple of different suppliers. We have different series of windows that will satisfy architectural requirements.

We’re widely known as the best historic replicator of windows, at least in New England. We do a lot of the mills built from the 1860s to the 1920s, and any building on the National Register of Historic Places. We do have lines of windows that go into regular apartment buildings that aren’t historic, but most of our business comes from historic markets.

Can you give me examples of specific projects?

I’ll give you a couple: North Bennet Street School, American Wire, American Tourister in Warren, RI. Also, Ames Shovel Works in Easton, which we got an award for, also the Canal Lofts in Worcester. Those are just a few.

Your business has grown a lot over the last two years. Why is that?

With historic buildings, there’s an incentive given to real estate developers — a historic tax credit program from the federal government. It entitles the developer to a 20-percent credit on the job, for whatever the size of the project is. That’s an incentive for them. The incentive covers the entire project — everything from sheetrock to cabinets, etc. That’s been kind of a boon in the last three or four years.

The tax credit is an incentive, and it’s great for local communities because during construction there’s high employment. Local areas are getting the benefit of having those people around. Then, when construction is finished, and the building becomes apartments for rent, you get 50-150 apartments that weren’t there before. That’s good for the local economy as well. It’s a non-partisan issue in Congress; it serves both parties well to have that credit in existence.

There’s a need for apartments in the community around here. Developers are willing to buy, make investments in buildings, and complete them. The buildings are just sitting idle. The more that happens, the more quoting we get to do, and it’s a numbers game from there.

And you increased your manufacturing workforce by 30 percent over the past two years.

That’s a direct reflection of an increase in business for historic and non-historic projects — mostly historic projects.

The economic model looks good right now, so we’re hoping that continues into the foreseeable future, but nobody had a crystal ball on this unfortunately. However, I think with the push for more manufacturing in this country, I think that’s going to help. Everything we use is American-made. Our steel comes from Ohio, and our glass comes from Massachusetts.

Where are your clients located?

Most of our clients are in New England, but we do a lot of work in New York and New Jersey now. We also have done jobs in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

How many people do you employ now?

We have about 115 people. As business grows, we will add more people in the factory. Nothing would make us happier than to be a company that employs 150 people, because they’re local people, but that has to do with how much business we get.

I’m hoping the company will end up with 150 people. We would probably explore a second or even third shift before we talk about relocation from where we are. We’re located in a residential area — we can’t expand the first level and can’t go up.

Any new products or services in the works?

We’re working on introducing a new product in the non-historic market. It’s a strutted window, which has a separate exterior or interior frame or extrusion. The extrusion can be painted different colors, and have different finishes. That’s a big advantage to real estate developers and general contractors because they they have option to do two tone, and have separate finishes on the exterior and the interior.

Right now, whatever finish you put on the outside, you have to put on inside. When you separate those two pieces, you run them on a separate paint line, with a separate finish, and they meet up with a stitcher, and that’s when the two pieces become one piece. That will be introduced in the current quarter.

Anything else you want to add?

We like being in the Marlborough area. It’s a central location with access to good potential employees. It’s convenient to I-495 and I-290.

This interview originally appeared here.