Glass manufacturing, at least fiberglass production, may be seeing signs of improving. PPG Industries just announced that it has restarted a furnace at its facility in Shelby, N.C.
The restart supports market demand, specifically in the area of automotive, wind energy, and oil and gas pipe applications.
“The market is demanding energy efficiency and new solutions,” according to Greg Terchick, PPG global marketing manager, direct draw. “Customers are looking for ways to save on energy costs, whether through renewable and traditional energy or by making cars lighter and more fuel efficient.”
Restarting the furnace will increase current annual capacity by about 17,000 metric tons. An additional 34 employees will support the restart, some of which were recalled from layoffs.
The 51-year-old plant makes fiberglass reinforcements and fabrics and has employed as many as 1,700 workers (1989). A company fact sheet on the facility lists the employment at 451, but its unclear if that is before or after the additional 34 employees mentioned above.
Back in 2006, PPG announced that it was going to invest $20 million to modernize the Shelby facility:
When the transformation is complete, the rebuilt furnace at Shelby will be positioned to produce wet chop, direct chop, remote wet chop and direct draw products, which are used in blades for wind-energy turbines, pipes, tanks, roofing shingles, automotive parts and other applications.
The Shelby plant is also home for PPG’s global fiberglass research and development laboratories. The labs got a $3 million DOD grant in 2008 to develop new advanced composite military vehicle armor.
It’s still too soon to know what the long term trend will be for the glass industry. Obviously, there is an uptick in wind energy expenditures in the U.S., and two months of increases in employment in the construction industry is welcome news, although wage declines run counter to hopes for increases in home sales and home improvements.