Vitro begins work on $55 million project

After four years of behind-the-scenes work, Vitro Architectural Glass will soon begin construction on a new facility and jumbo coater that will make the plant north of Wichita Falls the “shining star” in the company.

Plant manager Bill Haley said the $55 million project has been a long-time coming.

“This would not have happened without the support of the cities of Wichita Falls and Burkburnett,” he said. “The leadership teams are outstanding — the city councils, 4A boards (and) their teams — they really are incredible with the great things they get done.”

The goal is to have the facility built by November, which is when the equipment should begin to arrive. Production of flat glass on the new coater is expected to begin in April 2018.

An estimated 50 jobs will be added as a result of the coater installation.

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. Both packages were factors in the Monterrey, Mexico-based company’s decision as to where it would put the state-of-the-art jumbo coater.

Haley said Vitro, formerly PPG, was limited to producing sheets of flat glass no taller than 12 feet for commercial construction, but designers and builders were pushing for sheets larger than that. The new jumbo coater — a machine that puts layers of metal into glass to make them energy efficient — will enable the plant to meet those needs.

Dick Beuke, president of the company, said PPG supported the project in the past, but wasn’t willing to step in and invest the money needed to put the equipment in the Wichita Falls plant. He said from the time Vitro reached an agreement to purchase the plant and others in the United States, they were committed to putting the machinery at one of it’s locations.

He said putting in a jumbo coater comes with several complex issues, but there was no hesitation by Haley when the prospect was discussed.

 “The first thing Bill said when he raised his hand, he said, ‘We’ll get it done in Texas. That’s what we do,'” he said. “And that’s what they did. They got it done. Everyone else was still talking about it and Bill had a package in front of us.”

Beuke said Vitro employs more than 360 people locally and has a local payroll of $30.5 million. It outsources $26 million to area contractors. “We like to keep it in the community,” he said.

Dick Bundy, WFEDC board chairman, said this was the biggest business retention, expansion and recruitment project the corporation has done this decade. He said it’s an “incredible commitment” to the state and North Texas and shows the results of hard work locally to bring the opportunity here.

“The economic impact of your commitment will be felt for years by the lives of this place and its quality of life,” he told Beuke and other Vitro officials. “Now, we’ll do our part to make this plant the shining star of the Vitro family.”

Wichita County Commissioner Jeff Watts and Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana also addressed the crowd, praising the company’s leadership for choosing Wichita Falls as the location for the new machine.

Courtesy of John Ingle , Times Record News
Follow John Ingle on Twitter at @inglejohn1973.