Smith Glass seeing some suitors

While continued operations at L.E. Smith Glass Co. remain in doubt, several potential suitors have expressed interest in buying some or all of the Mt.

Pleasant company's assets if the glassmaker officially closes its doors.
Quadriga Art, Inc., a private, family-owned New York-based fund-raising and direct mail marketing company, wants to know more about troubled Smith Glass, which hasn't made any handmade glass since June 30, when its Westmoreland County plant closed for its annual summer shutdown.

"We think we can do something. They (Smith Glass) have a great design house and a great reputation," said Robert Israel, president of Quadriga's consumer products unit, based in Pennsauken, N.J.

Israel said he previously worked in marketing for Lawrenceville, N.J.-based Lenox Inc., which closed its crystal manufacturing plant in Mt. Pleasant in January 2002. The closing left 57 workers jobless.

Quadriga's interest is not the first, said John A. Skiavo, CEO of Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland. Skiavo said one company, whom he declined to identify, had previously expressed interest in certain equipment at Smith Glass.

"Obviously, we're anxious to work with any potential buyer that will reopen the facility. We had one call from someone interested in buying equipment, but that's not something we're getting involved with," Skiavo said.

Attempts to find a buyer for Smith Glass have been unsuccessful. The most recent attempt to sell the glassmaker failed earlier this month, after Craig Dunham, a New Jersey businessman, was unable to complete a process he started in February.

Smith Glass operations are largely governed by Sky Bank, a unit of Bowling Green, Ohio-based Sky Financial Group Inc., which loaned $2.9 million to the 97-year-old glassmaker to modernize and rebuild the company's 21-ton furnace. The bank also had extended Smith Glass a line of credit the company has exceeded by an estimated $500,000.

Skiavo said Dunham's plan may have been the best chance to keep the glassmaker open and preserve the plant's 43-person work force. They are represented by United Steelworkers of America Locals 537 and 102T. They remain on indefinite layoff, while the glassmaking tanks have been idled.

"The truly sad part is that he (Dunham) represented the best opportunity. He had a good business plan, a workable one that could have made it work," Skiavo said.

But the longer the plant remains closed, the more likely that L.E. Smith's customers will desert.

"I'm getting calls from other glass companies asking who's doing the work. I'm not about to send them to competitors, but as days go by, customers will find other glassmakers who can provide glassmaking time," said Jim Watt, a staff representative with the United Steelworkers union.

600450 Smith Glass seeing some suitors
Date: 15 July 2004

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