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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Ply Gem expansion hearkens recovery

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's been a hard road for many area businesses and industries in recent years, not only here but around the country. That makes positive economic news sweet, especially when it means more jobs. Ply Gem Window's announcement Tuesday of a $9.1 million expansion, creating at least 200 positions at the plant, is sweet indeed, a sign that the housing market may be on a much-needed upswing.

The Ply Gem plant in Rocky Mount, formerly called MW, manufactures windows and patio doors and was hit hard by the recession as demand dwindled. Layoffs were announced as the company adjusted to the decreased demand for products, and the number of jobs retained eventually settled at an appropriate level for the demand. Many, many companies in the nation saw the same scenario. Some did not survive.

Ply Gem Industries, a multi-national company with headquarters in Cary, N.C., specializes in home exteriors. The Rocky Mount plant was at one time the county's' largest employer with a workforce of about 1,300. But with the slowing housing market, the first layoffs were announced in February 2008. By 2011, the estimated number of Ply Gem employees here was at just over 1,000.

Obviously, bringing back 200 positions is a huge step to take and Lynn Morstad, president of the Rocky Mount facility, said he is confident that even more positions may need to be filled as demand increases. That demand, he said, was at one time based on about 1 million new housing starts, which dropped to about half that. But he sees light at the end of the tunnel, and he wants his company to be ready to handle the demand as the housing market improves.

The company has a big investment in the Rocky Mount plant, which is one of only a few of Ply Gem's manufacturing plants that have seen expansion. Four of the Ply Gem's plants were closed during the recession. The facility here is the largest of its kind within the company.

Making that investment even larger shows how much confidence the company has in not only the growth of the housing market but the community as well. Quality workers are essential for quality products, and Mr. Morstad made it very clear the company is satisfied with the associates hired here.

We simply cannot overemphasize the significance of this expansion. Any substantial economic recovery depends on improvement in the housing market, and to see a company have this much confidence that the improvement is on the horizon is great news for everyone.

The expansion is also a good example of how local government and other agencies can help an existing business. As county Administrator Rick Huff said, 70 percent of the job growth during the last 20 years has come from existing businesses.

And we all should be pleased to see so many entities and individuals work together to make this happen. County and town officials have worked with the company closely and that includes awarding grants for the expansion and planning for worker training at The Franklin Center. Grants for the expansion were also obtained from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, although the dollar amounts have not been released.

We share the optimism of Mr. Morstad, who is determined to make sure the plant is ready for the expected increase in demand. And we hope his prediction that even more jobs will need to be filled is accurate.

Such an expansion also helps spread the word about doing business in Franklin County.

Board of Supervisors Chairman David Cundiff, who is also on the Tobacco Commission, said it best: "Companies from throughout the world are hiring and investing here because of the strength of our workforce, our low costs of doing business and our great quality of life."

The key to economic stability and growth is good jobs, and our hats are off to all those involved in this expansion.

 
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