Wichita Falls and Burkburnett Recognized by TEDC for Vitro Expansion Project

John Ingle, Times Record News

When it comes to economic development, there are no guarantees that a specific project will go through.

That was certainly the case when the cities of Wichita Falls and Burkburnett were putting together economic development incentive packages for Vitro Architectural Glass, formerly PPG. Their collective hard work not only landed a $55 million expansion project from the Mexico-based company, but the cities were also named the Texas Economic Development Council’s Community Economic Development Award for communities with a population 100,001 to 250,000.

The Wichita Falls City Council approved a $3 million incentive package developed by the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corp., or 4A board, and the Burkburnett City Commission approved a $300,000 package to be paid over three years from the Burkburnett Development Corp.

 “The Community Economic Development Award program recognizes exceptional contributions of TEDC member cities toward the economic vitality of their communities and the state of Texas through creativity, leadership, and partnership in the achievement of business retention, business recruitment and community improvement,” the TEDC said in a release.

Wichita Falls competed with Frisco, Mesquite and Round Rock for the top honor in their category.

Henry Florsheim, president and CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Vitro project was a local business expansion as well as a recruitment effort that was many years in the making. He said the could have chosen another location in the company to build as state-of-the-art jumbo coater, a machine that puts layers of metal into glass to make energy efficient windows.

 He said they started working on the project when the facility was was still under the PPG banner. A need had existed at the Wichita Falls plant for the new machinery, but PPG wouldn’t pull the trigger on it.

“We stayed engaged with Bill Haley, the plant manager, and so Vitro, when they were doing their due diligence, they knew this as well,” Florsheim said. “As soon as they took over the company, we were already ready. We had already submitted our proposal for support for the project.”

He said it didn’t take long for Vitro to make the decision that the Wichita Falls facility would be the site for the jumbo coater.

Vitro broke ground on the new project in May and should be complete by the end of the year. The plant had been limited to producing sheets of glass of 12-feet tall, but the new machine will create larger pieces, which is what designers and builders want.

“This is an exceptional testament for why companies should bring their businesses to Wichita Falls and Burkburnett and why this is a great place to do business,” Haley said. “The infrastructure is very good, the labor force is excellent for producing high quality products in a safe and efficient manner, and you can’t beat the support that the city and county leadership provide.”