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Ply Gem Windows is Franklin County’s largest private employer and taxpayer, and evidence suggests that it seems inclined to stick around.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Travis Stovall assembles a vinyl window at Ply Gem in Rocky Mount on Monday. The new manufacturing lines being added to the facility will increase production of vinyl windows, in anticipation of growth in the housing construction and remodeling industry.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Sunday, March 17, 2013
ROCKY MOUNT — Cheap imports of furniture, textiles and apparel battered many manufacturing industries in Franklin County in recent decades. Companies such as Lane Co., Virginia Apparel Corp. and Pluma shuttered plants and hundreds of workers lost their jobs.
But MW Manufacturers, a producer of windows that traced its roots in Rocky Mount to 1939, stuck around. In 2004, Ply Gem Industries acquired MW Manufacturers from Investcorp, a global investment group.
Today, Ply Gem Windows, one of three divisions of Ply Gem Industries, headquartered in Cary, N.C., is Franklin County’s largest private employer and taxpayer. And evidence suggests that Ply Gem seems inclined to stick around, too — at least for the near term.
In October, Ply Gem Windows announced it had added about 100 jobs in Rocky Mount and planned to add about 100 more and invest nearly $7 million in its facilities there by the end of 2014. A performance agreement tied to the expansion said the average wage of the jobs would be $12.80 per hour.
Ply Gem Windows occupies space in seven buildings in town, with a total footprint of nearly 1.3 million square feet. The company has about 1,150 employees in Franklin County and about 40 in Roanoke, where Ply Gem Windows is headquartered.
Ply Gem Windows manufactures vinyl-clad, aluminum-clad, vinyl and wood windows and patio doors for residential and light commercial construction. In addition to its Rocky Mount factory, Ply Gem Windows has window assembly plants in seven other locations in the United States.
Chris Pickering , vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Windows, said the Franklin County location appeals to company officials for several reasons.
The region’s history of manufacturing provides a workforce experienced in production, he said. The plant is close to suppliers, he said, including Guardian Industries, a glassmaker with a facility in Galax. And the plant can efficiently truck its windows and doors from Franklin County to a territory ranging from Florida to Pennsylvania, west to the Mississippi River and even into states in the Northern Plains and into markets in Texas.
Pickering said the production facility in Rocky Mount is “probably the most complex plant in the Ply Gem system,” building a variety of products and serving a diverse customer base that includes lumberyards , big-box retailers, and specialty distributors and dealers. In addition, the plant hosts research and development and product testing capabilities, he said.
Ply Gem’s apparent commitment to its Rocky Mount facilities is good news to local government officials.
“As the county’s largest private employer, Ply Gem’s continued success is vital to the area’s economic well-being,” said Michael Burnette , Franklin County’s director of economic development.
In an email, Burnette referenced the expansion announced in October.
“It is our hope that this is just the first in a long line of future expansion announcements for the company,” he said.
Matt Hankins , Rocky Mount’s assistant town manager and community development director, described Ply Gem’s significance in an email.
“Ply Gem’s continued presence here means much more than tax revenue,” Hankins said, “It means jobs for our residents. It means having great people who work for Ply Gem be able to remain here, to support their community, their churches and schools, their kids’ athletic programs and their town.”
Ply Gem pays taxes to both the county and the town of Rocky Mount.
Hankins said that during fiscal year 2012, Ply Gem paid the town $28,075.72 in machinery and tools tax and $11,365.80 in real estate tax. And Burnette said the company paid Franklin County $114,875.29 in machinery and tools tax and $27,345.60 in real estate tax.
Ply Gem Industries’ three operating divisions are Ply Gem Windows; Ply Gem Siding, based in Kansas City, Mo.; and Ply Gem Canada, based in Calgary, Alberta. Ply Gem Industries’ various products include windows and doors, siding, stone veneer, fence, rail, accessories and accents.
In October, when Ply Gem Windows announced its plans to expand operations in Rocky Mount, the company said there were encouraging signs of recovery in the housing market.
And the windows and doors plant in Rocky Mount is working three shifts and nearly seven days a week. But Pickering said not every area of production requires staffing during every shift, a situation he said “allows for additional capacity and future growth.”
He said demand has increased across the industry for vinyl windows, and the company investment announced in October is increasing the number of production lines for that product.
Two high-profile regional construction projects have used or are using windows manufactured by Ply Gem.
Will Holmes is senior vice president of development and construction for Smith/Packett. The company’s South Peak development famously tops a hill near Tanglewood Mall in Roanoke County. Holmes said on March 7 that the first of five buildings slated to house condominiums is nearing completion.
The company elected to use Ply Gem brand windows for the condo building, Holmes said, because the windows were competitively priced and met the development’s standards for quality building products. He said Ply Gem also offered a window clad in an exterior color compatible with the building’s overall color scheme.
Ply Gem donated the windows for the award-winning Center for Energy Efficient Design in Rocky Mount. The center, dedicated in November 2010, is a facility for Franklin County Public Schools. The building was designed by Adam Cohen of Structures Design/Build, a Roanoke County-based company co-owned by Cohen and Steve Strauss . The building incorporated high-efficiency Passivhaus design.
Strauss said Structures Design/Build worked with Ply Gem engineers to develop the building’s custom triple-paned windows, which are filled with krypton gas. The gas reduces the transfer of heat across the window.
Last year, the Center for Energy Efficient Design received Passivhaus certification from the Passive House Institute U.S. and platinum designation for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council.
In October, Lynn Morstad , president of Ply Gem Windows, said the company’s expansion in Rocky Mount demonstrated its confidence in workers there.
And although many people in Franklin County still refer to the plant in Rocky Mount as MW Windows, the Ply Gem name is catching on, especially with local officials.
“We look forward to helping Ply Gem grow as the economy improves,” said Rick Huff, Franklin County administrator.
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