When you’re walking amidst New York City’s high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, there’s a good chance that you’re looking at windows that were manufactured in Johnstown, New York by Pioneer Window Manufacturing Corporation.
When Vincent Amato, Jr., who worked in window installation in New York City, decided that he wanted to start his own company in 1994, a colleague suggested he investigate Fulton County.
Johnstown turned out to be an ideal location. It was less than four miles from his colleague’s aluminum company, which subsequently became one of Pioneer’s main suppliers. In addition, the Johnstown Industrial Park is only five miles from the New York State Thruway. Proximity to the interstate makes it easy for Pioneer to receive materials from suppliers in Rochester and New Jersey, as well as to ship its windows to New York City and other major metropolitan areas.
The company started off with just a couple of contracts and 9,000 square feet of space. Today, it occupies three buildings in close proximity to one another, for a total of 265,000 square feet of space for manufacturing, offices, and warehousing.
Staff at Pioneer design, engineer, manufacture, and deliver all the company’s products. While New York City is a major market, Pioneer has constructed windows for structures in Virginia and Massachusetts, as well as government buildings throughout the United States. Pioneer’s windows are found in high-rise buildings, schools, housing authority projects, colleges and universities, hospitals, and libraries.
Johnstown proved to be the perfect place for Pioneer’s growth.
One of Pioneer’s first projects in New York City was the Element, a sleek 35-floor condominium on the Upper West Side. “That’s what really put us into the high-rise market,” said Eric Miller, Pioneer’s vice president of manufacturing. “When you go into New York City and you see all these glass buildings, we’ve done a fair amount of them in the five boroughs and Long Island,” he said. Pioneer also manufactured the windows for Trump Plaza in New Rochelle, among numerous other prominent buildings.
Miller admits that the NYC market is a tough one, but Pioneer has mastered it. “The codes and the requirements of a window and how it’s tested and how stringent the testing is–there’s no other place in the country, to my knowledge, that is as tough as New York City because of the tight confines of all these buildings and also the heights of them,” Miller said. Pioneer expanded into the school construction market and is now a certified manufacturer for the NYC School Construction Authority, boosting Pioneer’s business significantly.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense required government buildings to have windows with a certain blast-protection level. Pioneer rose to the challenge and struck up a partnership with a company experienced in blast mitigation. The company designed its own blast windows, and these windows are now installed in government buildings throughout the country. “We’ve done everything from a high-level blast to a very low-level,” Miller said.
Location is not the only benefit of doing business in Fulton County. The ease of business is a significant factor. “We’ve made a lot of friends here in the county,” Miller said. “They’ve always been willing to work with us. They’re all excited to see the growth.”
Miller cites the example of the deepened recession after the 9/11 attacks. “There were a lot of companies in the 9/11 era that couldn’t pay rents in this park,” he remembered. “They were having a tough time, and we were one of them.”
The Fulton County Economic Development Team stepped in to see how they could help. “They worked out an amortization plan for a six-month period,” said Miller, adding that the team also worked to find local projects for which Pioneer could supply windows. “They took care of us when we had bad times, and when we had good times, they were here to pat us on the back and say, ‘Congratulations,’” he said.
Pioneer is prospering now, with a $12 million expansion project in the works as demand for its products increases. In December 2018, the company received a $2 million grant from New York State for the project, which includes the construction of a 140,000-square-foot building that will allow the company to meet its current and future production needs.
GROWTH AT A GLANCE
Pioneer leased its first Johnstown facility of 9,000 square feet.
The company moved to a leased, 50,000 square-foot, built-to-suit facility. Soon thereafter, 10,000 more square feet were added.
Pioneer did $50 million in sales, largely due to a boom in the school construction industry in New York City. This precipitated the lease of an additional built-to-suit facility providing 115,000 square feet of production space.
50,000 more square feet were added to this building for a total of 165,000 square feet. Pioneer purchased this building in 2018.
Pioneer purchased a second building of 42,000 square feet and the property in between this structure and the space it purchased in 2018. Eventually, the property in between will house a building of 75,000 square feet that will connect the two facilities.
Pioneer purchased another building of 50,000 square feet to house finished product and serve as the company’s shipping hub. The $12 million planned expansion project is funded partly by a $2 million grant through New York State’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative.