After a year-long effort to trim expenses and focus on products less vulnerable to foreign competition, Summitville Tiles says it has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In a letter to employees, suppliers and customers, the 92-year old Ohio-based manufacturer said it used the past year to "re-invent itself and to recover from the ravages of global competition."

The company, which three years ago had a workforce of 650, now has about 250 workers at plants in the Ohio cities of Summitville, Minerva and Peking. Over the past two years it also scaled back its product line from about 10,000 to 3,000 skus, according to executive vice president Bruce Johnson.

"We are focusing on the core products that differentiate us," said Johnson, whose family has owned the company since 1920. "We have had to make a lot of changes in a short among of time. It wasn't pleasant but we feel there is a bright future for Summitville Tiles."

In December 2003, Summitville filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Youngstown claiming debts of $24 million and assets of $15 million. The company's management team filed a reorganization plan in July outlining how creditors would be paid through a financing deal with PNC Bank and Washington Mutual. The company says management agreed to a 30 percent reduction in compensation. Company workers, it said, "have not had a raise in four long hard years."

The family owned business has struggled against competition from foreign manufacturers. Market conditions have held down floor tile prices, increasing pressure on the dwindling number of domestic manufacturers including Summitville, which describes itself as of the nation's oldest continuously operating tile manufacturers.

In a bid to remain competitive, the company plans to focus on its core product lines including quarry tiles, industrial floor brick and thin brick. The company also has in place a $1.1 million capital improvements program that includes $320,000 in direct grants from the state of Ohio and $780,000 in low interest loans. The money is being used to improve tunnel kiln productivity and provide an expanded-capacity production line.

Sandy Lasica, a customer service rep for SpecCeramics in Anaheim, Calif., which began distributing Summitville products in mid-2004, said demand for the product line has been steady. "We are aware of their bankruptcy situation but we have sold a lot of their product," she said. "They eliminated the lines that were not doing well but they have some quality products that are unique."