Wichita Falls will be the location of a $55 million expansion project for Vitro Architectural Glass and will bring about 50 new jobs to the area, company officials said Wednesday morning.
The decision comes after months of discussion between the company – the Wichita Falls plant was formerly owned by PPG – and city leaders and economic development experts as the two sides worked on a $3 million incentive package to help lure the expansion to North Texas. Vitro will install a new coater at the facility north of Wichita Falls that will allow it to make commercial glass larger than 12 feet tall, something designers and builders are pushing for in the construction industry.
Bill Haley, manager of the local plant, said the existing coater – a machine that puts layers of metal into glass to make them energy efficient – limits the size of glass that they can produce. But, the new system’s abilities and technology will far eclipse what the plant is able to do now.
“The new equipment will enable us to cost-efficiently coat jumbo-sized glass, which will further increase demand for our products,” he said.
The Wichita Falls City Council approved the incentive package for Vitro during its Feb. 7 meeting by a vote of 6-1. The Wichita Falls Economic Development Corp. unanimously approved the offer on Jan. 19.
The new machine should be up and producing glass by April 2018.
The expansion project will also include construction of a new 200,000-square-foot building on the site of the Vitro plant, which will result in work for local contractors.
Dick Bundy, president of the WFEDC and an architect by trade, said glass is an important part of the design and construction industry.
“Because of past performance by our local glass plant, coupled with the responsiveness of the Wichita Falls economic development team, it brings me great pleasure to see Vitro announce this major investment in our community,” he said. “Vitro’s investment places Wichita Falls at the heart of a cutting-edge technology that will continue to provide and expand significant primary jobs for our local economy far into the 21st century.”
Dick Beuke, president of the Monterrey, Mexico-based glass manufacturer, said the coater and expansion project will position the company as an industry leader, innovator and architect resource.
“As building codes become more stringent and building designs more complex, architects and building designers are driving glass manufacturers to provide higher performing products, greater cost efficiencies and increased technical support,” he said. “This new machinery, along with our expanded sales and service staff, positions us to meet those demands.”
Burkburnett City Manager Mike Whaley said the Burkburnett Development Corp., of which he is serving as interim director, will consider a $300,000 package to include with the Vitro project. The $300,000 would be spread over three years. Whaley said the BDC board will consider the package during its next regular meeting on March 14, and, if approved, will go to the Burkburnett City Commission on March 20 for their consideration and approval.
“Burkburnett has always been a support of PPG and now Vitro,” he said, recalling another growth opportunity in the mid-2000s in which the city participated. “As a good community, we wanted to be involved and show support for what they do for our community as well.”
Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana called the project “another example of how Wichita falls supports existing industry” and “its importance to the entire community.” Burkburnett Mayor Carl Law indicated the city looks forward to working with Wichita Falls and Vitro in making the plant “the flagship for all Vitro North American operations.”
Other partners in the project include Wichita County, Vernon College and the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce & Industry, which has as part of its mission retaining and expanding existing industry in its service area.