Republic Windows owner linked to Iowa plant purchase

A company managed by the wife of Republic Windows and Doors owner Richard Gillman recently purchased an Iowa plant that manufactures similar products, according to public records.

Gillman has come under fire in recent days for abruptly closing Republic's Goose Island plant and refusing to provide workers there with the 60 days notice and pay required by federal labor law.

Echo Windows and Doors was created two weeks ago and lists Sharon Gillman as its manager, according copies of records obtained by the Daily News from the Iowa Secretary of the State. According to Cook County property tax records, Sharon Gillman is Richard Gillman's wife.

The couple purchased a $2.6 million Oak Street condo together in 2007, according to property records.

The Gillimans could not be reached for comment today. But this afternoon, Richard Gillman released a statement confirming the creation of the new company.

Also, Amy Zimmerman, who has served as Republic’s marketing director, is now listed as the contact on the newly registered echowindows.com domain name. She refused comment today.

Republic officials have blamed the shutdown on Bank of America's refusal to provide continued financing.

Republic employees have staged a sit-in at the company's plant since Friday, and have enlisted numerous politicians in their cause.

Earlier today, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the state would stop doing business with the bank until it gives Republic the money it needs to stay afloat. Local elected officials, as well as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and President-elect Barack Obama, have urged the company to give the workers their 60 days of pay.

The Iowa plant was formerly operated by TRACO, a window company headquartered in Pennsylvania. Traco confirmed the sale to Echo in a news release last week.

Workers at the plant say Echo officials visited the plant on Thursday, informing them of the sale and shutting down production briefly to do a full inventory of the factory.

“Everybody seemed like they were just kind of confused the day that I was there,” says Herald Wiltshire, an employee there.

Two weeks ago, Traco switched from running two production shifts per day to just one, citing slowing orders for their windows, Wiltshire said. About that same time, the company announced layoffs at another one of its factories, in Bainbridge, Ga., the Post-Searchlight newspaper reported.

But on Friday, the Red Oak plant started up its second shift again, following the announcement from Echo, Wiltshire says.

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