MOUNT VERNON — Ron Saxton, executive vice president of Jeld-Wen, attended President Obama’s Jobs Summit at the White House on Thursday. The summit involved about 130 people from around the country, primarily business and labor leaders. The forum’s objective was to discuss ways to bolster American jobs.
“We’re proud of how we have responded to opportunities like the replacement window federal tax credit,” Saxton said. “We are confident that there is more that can be done.”
Saxton’s inclusion in the job summit came at the suggestion of US. Rep. Zack Space. Continuing his push to encourage consumers and small businesses to take advantage of important Recovery Act funding, Space hosted a conference call with Saxton on Friday with members of the media.
According to Saxton, Jeld-Wen has created 70 jobs attributable to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Space supported earlier this year.
Saxton had an unexpected opportunity at the summit. After opening remarks by President Obama, summit participants were divided into several groups to discuss different aspects of job creation.
“Through some confusion on where people were going, they misdirected people,” Saxton said. “When I got to the place where I was supposed to be, I was the only person who arrived. So for about 10 minutes I was alone with [Energy] Secretary Chu and [White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Director] Carol Browner. We spent those 10 minutes talking about energy-efficient windows.
“A little later the president and his chief of staff joined us and Browner turned to the president and said, ‘I want you to hear what Mr. Saxton said about this opportunity.’ So I was able to talk about this subject, the efficiency of American-built windows, to the two of them privately, and to be one of the few people in the group to make a presentation to the president.”
“Working aggressively to make our homes energy efficient directly saves families money on their utility bills and has the potential to create thousands of jobs,” Space said. “Jeld-Wen is a model for how companies can use funding from the Recovery Act to create much-needed jobs here at home and directly invest back in our local economies.”
On the conference call, Saxton described how outfitting homes with more energy-efficient windows can save consumers money on their utility bills and create jobs. Tax credits included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are making these enhancements more affordable for consumers.
Saxton spoke about the meaning and impact of the green industries and technologies.
“If we take the most inefficient windows [installed in this country], there are over a billion of those,” he said. “If we set out to replace maybe 20 percent of those over several years then we would create literally hundreds of thousands of jobs in the window industry. And we would save a substantial percent of that energy used in buildings. You could easily have a 20 or 30 percent savings of that energy.”
Paying for this kind of installation does pose some problems, he said, especially for the average consumer.
“Replacing inefficient windows makes sense for the consumer in most cases,” Saxton said. “The savings you will receive over the years from your lower heat bill makes sense. The problem for consumers is up-front capital costs. If it’s going to cost you $5,000 to replace the windows in your house, the fact that it will pay off in several years doesn’t change the fact that you don’t have $5,000 to begin with. So a lot of what we talked about yesterday in the summit [was] coming up with ways for the homeowners to finance that.
“In some places you have discussions about utility companies doing that and they’d be the ones to essentially loan you the money and you would pay it back as part of your utility bill over time,” he continued. “In some places there is discussion about whether it could be part of somebody’s property taxes, with the local government doing the financing. Those mechanisms [are] how do we help the homeowner do something that in fact will be in their interest as well as society’s interests, but takes a little doing because of the upfront costs?”
When asked if the success Jeld-Wen has had with its new, energy-efficient windows might lead to expansion of the company’s facilities here in Mount Vernon, Saxton answered in the affirmative.
“Absolutely,” he said. “If we were able to launch the kind of large -scale expansion of this program we’ve talked about, the kind that we put thousands of people to work, we would see doing that at our existing sites as much as possible. That’s where we have the expertise and we have the people with the knowledge to do so. If there is a significant increase in a program to encourage energy-efficient windows, it could lead to an expansion of that plant and our similar plants.”