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The University Magazine

RIT Works

Obama gets ‘Serious’ message from RIT alum

Kevin Surace ’85, right, talks to Vice President Joe Biden during a tour of the new Serious Materials window manufacturing plant in Chicago

When it comes to creating “green collar” jobs, President Obama takes Kevin Surace ’85 (electrical engineering technology) very seriously.

Surace, a member of the RIT Board of Trustees, is president and CEO of Serious Materials, a burgeoning green technology company that has caught the eye of the White House.

President Obama recognized Serious Materials, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., during a nationally televised news conference in March. The president used Serious Materials as an example of the benefits of his economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“I met with a man whose company is reopening a factory outside of Pittsburgh that’s rehiring workers to build some of the most energy-efficient windows in the world,” Obama said during the news conference. He was talking about Surace.

The president commended Serious Materials on creating jobs that will aid the economic recovery while creating the technologies that will fuel America’s long-term prosperity. At that event, which focused on Serious Materials, Obama spoke to more than 100 clean-energy entrepreneurs and leading researchers in Washington, D.C.

“Last year, (the Pittsburgh) factory was shuttered and more than 100 jobs were lost,” said the president. “The town was devastated. Today, that factory is whirring back to life, and Serious Materials is rehiring the folks who lost their jobs.”

On April 27, Vice President Joe Biden visited the company’s new window manufacturing plant in Chicago. Biden and Surace discussed advanced window technology and the company’s re-hired workers.

Serious Materials develops and manufactures sustainable building materials that save energy, save money, improve comfort and aggressively address climate change, said Surace.

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program did a story on the company the day after Biden’s visit.

Energy efficiency is a major portion of the $787 billion federal stimulus package, totaling an estimated $38 billion in government spending and about $20 billion in tax incentives over the next decade.

“It is an honor to be recognized as a company that is helping to lead our economic recovery and push forward towards energy independence,” said Surace. “Working to counteract the negative impacts of climate change and saving Americans substantial energy in their homes and offices are essential endeavors, but doing so while recovering jobs for American workers makes me proud beyond words of all of our employees.”

Surace has major expansion plans for Serious this year as the company looks to hire new employees to help manufacture its highly insulated windows, glass and drywall material. Serious now has five plants with employment company-wide doubling from 200 to 400.

Several RIT students have cooperative education experience with the company. Surace would eventually like to add more from the RIT family to his workforce as the company matures.

“We’ve become the poster child for the Obama administration,” said Surace. “This is an exciting time as we work to improve the economy with green-collar jobs. Our advanced technology in windows (four times more energy savings than virtually any other brand) and panels (EcoRock generates 80 percent less CO2) is here today, and we continue to push the envelope with aggressive R&D efforts aimed at addressing energy usage in the built environment.”

Bob Finnerty ’07

For more on Serious Materials, visit