Excellence in Community Service

Pace “In-sources” for Regional Growth
Christina Lewellen
October 1, 2008
FEATURE ARTICLE | Strategies & Practices
To communicate its "buy locally" message, Page stripped its headquarters building down to the concrete and hired local artists to paint a mural across the entire front of the Victor, N.Y., building. To be completed this fall, the building will depict Pace's commitment to local suppliers and growing the regional economy.

Pace Window & Door Corp. takes its responsibility as an upstate New York company very seriously. The outer rim of the Rust Belt, the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., region is not exactly the poster child for economic growth. So Steve Abramson, president of Pace, believes it’s his role as a business owner to attempt to breathe life into the local economy.

“It’s a team effort that’s going to make a change for economic strength,” he says. “It’s not just the politicians’ job, or the consumers’ job, or the business owners’ job. We have to look at what we can all do together.”

So instead of outsourcing to keep costs down, Abramson selectively in-sources and trumpets the fact that its 95 percent made-in-New-York-State window may be more expensive than competitors’, but buying the product could support on the order of 500 to 1,000 area families. “We offer the option,” he says. “Would you rather give your money to China or another state, or pay 20 percent more for a window and work with us to build our region?”

Of course, as an astute retailer, Pace focuses on other key benefits its products offer homeowners. At its two showrooms in Rochester, as well as its showrooms in Buffalo and Syracuse, the company aims to educate consumers about how all its product lines—including Peachtree and Soft-Lite windows, Provia doors and its own line of Pace windows—can mitigate the effects of harsh upstate winters.

The local angle, however, is seen resonating with homeowners in a region where people generally do go out of their way to help a neighbor. “I do believe their focus on the business climate is appreciated in the area, where any good news about business is great news,” says David Polino, president of the Upstate New York Better Business Bureau.

In an extreme show of local pride, Abramson and his team recently ripped all the vinyl siding off Pace’s headquarters location in Victor, N.Y., and hired a graffiti artist to apply a custom-designed mural showcasing regional icons and the company’s philosophy. “I know some people think I’m crazy, but what we’re trying to do is build consumer awareness about buying locally,” he explains. “And it’s not just about buying locally in Rochester. Anytime anyone buys locally, no matter where they are, they’re giving blood to their local economy.”

SETTING THE PACE
Abramson founded Pace in 1985. A lifelong distance runner, he decided to name the company after the philosophy of pacing oneself to grow in a sustainable way. For his company, Abramson believes that success comes at the hands of ethics alone—not profit, not extreme cost-cutting measures and not shortcuts. “Everything I believe in starts with being fair and ethical,” he says. “You have to have a philosophy of ethics—with your partners, your customers, the people you work with. That’s how you win the game.”

His employees will vouch for him. Brian Ludwig, general manager, attests to the fact that Abramson, and therefore the whole company, will always put ethics, the customer and the community ahead of profit and short-term gains. “If his goal was to make money, he’d be pitiful at it,” Ludwig jokes. “He feels it’s a real duty to give a good product at a fair price. We’ve learned that when he comes to you with an idea, he’s been stewing on it for a while and it’s going to be good for the community. You now this company will always be here because of that.”

COMMUNITY-CENTRIC
Abramson has a stack of donation requests on his desk at any given time and he’s more than happy to help local charities, but he admits that donations are not his primary way to change his local community. He believes Pace as a company has more ability to affect the region by being successful as a business and supporting other businesses—that means more people get hired, more suppliers and manufacturers are supported and more people in the region have hopefully received a surprisingly ethical home improvement project thanks to Pace.

Pace owner Steve Abramson (right) and general manager Brian Ludwig review plans for the building's colorful makeover.

As a dealer/manufacturer hybrid, Pace just started offering its window line that is nearly 97 percent comprised of New York state materials. The extrusions come from Long Island, the glass hails from Geneva, and some of the hardware and weatherstripping comes from the local Rochester region. The units are fabricated in Pace’s small shop at its Victor location, where workers produce about 8,000 to 10,000 windows per year. “We don’t buy everything in New York State, but everything we do is done by walking down an ethical path,” Abramson says. “That’s what makes us different.”

In his most recent effort to celebrate the region he works so hard to support, Abramson approached his team about stripping the headquarters building down to the concrete in order to commission a massive mural depicting upstate New York pride. “When he comes to you and explains a project like that, you know it’s going to be awesome,” Ludwig says. “You know it’s going to be community based and it’s never about how to make more money. With the group of managers we have here now, we’re ready to listen to him and we know when he has ideas, it’s something from the heart.”

A graffiti artist created the design with the help and inspiration of Abramson, and the company fought hard to obtain the necessary building permits to undertake the project. Rochester-based professional artist Martine Lepore has been hired by the company to do the “finishing” on the outline that was started by a graffiti artist. The building was on track to be completed by early October. “I love the idea of it,” Lepore says. “Even half done, it looks fantastic and certainly stands out. I think more companies should be doing stuff like this.”

Steve Abramson (standing, center) and his management team subscribe to the notion that a business can only grow if it does so in an ethical manner. Based on their boss's example, the Pace management team knows that all decisions are made with the customer and the community in mind.

Abramson’s goal with the whole-building mural was to take what happens on the inside of the building and plaster it across the outside of the building, communicating to community members the commitment that Pace has for the region. “We want people to understand we’re an open book and we want them to be educated on what we do inside these walls,” he says.

While the colorful building is sure to attract attention to Pace as a company, the energetic founder insisted the mural be more about building local economic awareness. “We’re trying to make a regional domino effect and we’re doing it through an artistic message,” he says. “Some people probably think I’m crazy but anyone can say they support the local economy. We’re actually doing it.”

At the very least, Abramson and his team hope that the decorated building and their clear marketing message will get local replacement window buyers to consider some simple questions: “What can we all do together?” Abramson says. “If you know there’s a local platform, then why not?”

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Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.