Kingsport, Tenn., had a handful of glass industry veterans champing at the bit to get back to doing what they do best. In May, it happened.
Chris Cording and Eric Kerney, who combine for well over half a century of industry experience, recently formed Heritage Glass LLC to purchase the AGC Kingsport plant—which shut down two years ago—and restore its operations. Despite some ups and downs in negotiations, which began prior to the AGC plant shutdown, dialogue remained open until Cording’s group and AGC were able to come to an agreement.
Cording, CEO of Heritage, spent 33 years at AGC, including nine years at the plant Heritage purchased. The purchase was completed May 2, and the plant started renovations on May 5.
“To be honest, we just come into the plant every day and are tickled,” says Cording, who is again working alongside many of his former AGC co-workers. The company is comprised of 11 investors—seven of whom work at the plant—and 54 percent of the company is owned by the board of directors, comprised of Cording, Kerney and Vic Davis.
The primary markets Heritage will address are solar cover glass, shower doors, table tops and non-glare picture frame glass. Because of the markets Heritage is targeting, it won’t be in direct competition with AGC. In fact, Cording says Heritage would “be happy to supply them products to complete loads, and vice versa. We have good relationship (with AGC).”
In taking over the 450,000-square-foot plant, Heritage inherited two tempering lines and a patterned glass casting operation, among other machinery and equipment. Its furnace was rebuilt in 2012 and has just nine months of use on it.
“Everything in the plant was and is in excellent condition,” says Cording. “We’re very pleased with how good of shape everything is in.”
Arguably the most important thing the company inherited, however, was a reputation.
Heritage boasts that the plant was the first location in the world to manufacture low-iron photovoltaic cover glass and that it supplied more than 95 percent of all solar glass in the world at one time.
“This plant probably had more impact on solar than any in the world,” says Cording. “… It’s not a small history we have here.”
Moving forward, the company is most proud of its ability and potential to create jobs. It expects to house roughly 120 employees by the time it gets production rolling, which should happen within three months.
“The local community has been very supportive and appreciative of bringing jobs to the area,” says Cording. “We are fortunate that many past employees from the plant have been available to return.”
He adds, “We’ve had such a warm, welcoming response from everybody, on the local political level, the state political level, just support everywhere. If we have a minor issue here or there, they seem to always want to help … Creating new jobs is a very desirable thing.”