PGT Glass Fabrication Expansion Could Bring New Opportunities

Door and window maker PGT Industries took the first steps in greatly expanding its glass-cutting, tempering and laminating abilities when it recently broke ground on a new $15 million glass operations plant. Expected to be completed sometime later this year, the new 96,000-square foot facility will initially be used for glass processing, but PGT officials anticipate the additional space could eventually house manufacturing and other operations dictated by future market demand.

The new plant, which will be located just a short distance from the company’s main campus, will feature two high-speed glass cutters, as well as a new tempering oven, with additional plans to add a new laminating machine and insulating glass (IG) line perhaps as soon as 2015. The new facility figures to create between 50 to 60 permanent positions, as well as scores of additional jobs from the construction process.

“This tells such a great story about our region’s economic recovery,” says Rod Hershberger, the Venice, Fla.-based company’s president and CEO. “We were shutting down plants and suffering through housing recession. Now we are thrilled to be thriving and growing, creating jobs, exporting product and bringing more jobs to the state of Florida.”

PGT officials say they based their expansion and added equipment purchasing decisions on technology and end-market needs. IG equipment is most likely the company’s next purchase thanks to a “significant increase in demand over the past 12 months,” says executive vice president and CFO Jeff Jackson.

PGT currently fabricates most of its own glass needs and purchases the rest from an outside partner.

“We currently value add to raw glass, approximately 80 to 85 percent of our needs,” Jackson says. “Value add includes tempering, lami and/or IG.”

The increase in the company’s production capabilities will allow PGT to more easily react to customer needs in a more timely manner, assuring better lead times and continued control quality, Jackson says.

Making sure company personnel are properly trained to keep up with the added responsibilities and the constant technological advances will perhaps pose the biggest challenge, Jackson says.

Expansion was necessary to keep up with a fast-growing demand. The company has yet to release last year’s final quarter results, but sales through the first nine months of 2013 had climbed by 37 percent, while profits had risen by 60 percent, says Jackson.

After struggling like everybody else throughout the recession, PGT has been the beneficiary of a home-building resurgence throughout the U.S., as well as increased consumer awareness of the need for protection from severe weather. Impact glass such as tempered glass or insulating glass accounted for 73 percent of the company’s sales in 2013.

“Energy efficiency is driving the demand more than ever before,” Jackson said. “And, at the end, it’s all about serving the customers.”

PGT commissioned two local Sarasota companies, Hall Architects and Willis A. Smith Construction Inc., for the new plant’s development and construction.

At its current plant, the company takes raw glass and cuts it, tempers it and laminates it to create its storm-resistant WinGuard line, as well as other products. The company does much of that work now from a single 42,000-square-foot building. A second, 80,000- square-foot glass plant is primarily used to make insulating glass.

“It’s definitely been a year for the books,” Jackson says. “Everybody’s excited.”

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