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Marvin Windows exec appreciates Obama shout-out

MINNEAPOLIS — The president of the Minnesota company President Barack Obama praised in his Democratic National Convention speech said Friday that she appreciated the recognition, but wouldn't say whether he would get her vote.

Susan Marvin is president of Marvin Windows in Warroad, Minn. The privately held company, which manufactures windows and fiberglass siding, has weathered a long housing slump without laying off any of its 4,000 employees or cutting their health care. Instead it cut hours for wage employees to 32 a week, cut pay for management and salaried workers, and suspended its 401k match.

Obama, who previously lauded Marvin Windows in a speech last December, praised the company for avoiding layoffs "even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay, because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business."

Susan Marvin and her family members have almost exclusively donated to Republicans, and Marvin herself co-chaired a national political action committee formed by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. She wasn't watching Obama's speech Thursday night, and didn't know his shout-out was coming, but said she was glad to hear about it.

"Candidly, recognition of people trying hard to do the right thing is nonpartisan," Marvin said. "We're supported and rooted on by people from all political persuasions."


Susan Marvin's grandfather opened a lumberyard in Warroad in 1904; it has since grown to encompass 10 plants in Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia. She said the company has striven to maintain her grandfather's conviction to provide jobs that sustain communities.

But recent years have been difficult. The company took most of its cost-saving measures in 2009; company officials would not disclose how long it's been since they posted a profit, but spokesman John Kirchner said the last round of profit sharing took place in 2008.

Marvin said the company is beginning to see signs the prolonged housing slump is starting to lift. Most workers have been restored to 40 hours a week, though the retirement match still is suspended.

A supporter of Pawlenty's presidential bid, Marvin wouldn't reveal if she'd vote for Obama or Republican Mitt Romney for president.

"I am going to vote for the candidate that I feel is most likely going to do the very best job supporting and building our economy, and facilitating the opportunity for profits and a healthy capitalism," Marvin said.

Asked for her estimation of Obama's presidency, Marvin demurred: "I would want to think further on that question before answering, so I think it's best if I decline."

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