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Viracon to invest $4-$7 million in Statesboro plant
'Majority' of employees to be furloughed during renovation phase
In this Herald file photo from 2007, a worker at the Viracon plant in Statesboro works with a piece of fabricated glass. The company announced a $4 to $7 million expansion of the plant. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/Herald File

    Viracon will invest about $7 million in its Statesboro plant to refurbish manufacturing equipment and upgrade infrastructure in the building.
    The Minnesota-based company made the announcement Thursday in anticipation of a commercial construction market recovery. However, during the construction phase, all production at the plant soon will stop and all but 40 of the plant’s 360 employees will be furloughed, according to Jim Wendorff, Viracon’s vice president for human resources.
    He said Viracon intends to recall all employees within six months when the upgrade is complete.
    About 100 employees were furloughed beginning Thursday and Wendorff said the rest will be let go during the next five weeks.
    “There’s no doubt this was some tough news to deliver and some employees will struggle not having a paycheck,” said Wendorff, who is based in the company’s headquarters in Owatonna, Minn.
    Wendorff said furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment benefits and representatives with the Georgia Department of Labor were at the plant Thursday to help with paperwork. Also, employees were offered the opportunity to transfer to jobs in Viracon’s other fabrication plants in Utah and Minnesota, Wendorff said.
    “We have a strong commitment to Statesboro and that’s why we are renovating the plant so extensively,” he said. “Our vision is long term for this market, but there is no doubt it will create some short term pain for a lot of our employees.”
    The plant in the Gateway Industrial Park off Highway 301 South opened in 1999. Viracon is the nation’s leading single-source fabricator of architectural glass. The company initially invested $27 million to build and open the Statesboro facility and added 65,000 square feet to the plant in 2005.
     “As our architectural glass markets continue to demand more value-added and energy efficient products, we intend to ensure that our Statesboro facility remains on the cutting edge of glass fabrication capability for the next construction up-cycle,” said Kelly Schuller, president of Viracon.
    Wendorff said the renovations to the Statesboro plant were long overdue.
    “As technology advances our need for capital improvements kept piling up,” he said. “We decided to take this opportunity to bring the plant back up to date and make it state-of-the-art once again.”
    Plant manager Rick Craft said all work should be complete by the middle of August and plant production would ramp up in stages as renovations are completed. He said employees furloughed first would be the first ones brought back. Craft said the renovations would not include any expansion of the plant.
    Wendorff said all furloughed employees were given a packet about the company’s plans and Viracon will have a hotline that will give updates on the progress of renovations and when workers will be rehired.
    “We want to make sure we keep in touch with our entire workforce,” he said.

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