AGC laying off 34 workers from Surgoinsville plant

Rick Wagner • Jan 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

SURGOINSVILLE — The “glass plant,” as it is called in these parts, is laying off another 34 people.

The layoffs at the AGC Flat Glass facility between Surgoinsville and Church Hill include 29 to take effect Monday, and five more two weeks later. They come on the heels of an April shutdown of one of two production lines at the former AFG Industries plant and the layoff of about 250 at the Hawkins County operation.

“It’s two things,” Brad Kitterman, president and chief executive officer of AGC, said Friday morning about the layoffs at the company’s Greenland plant.

“About half of that was a reduction on the loading dock,” said Kitterman. “The other half was tempering.”

Kitterman said the loading dock reduction was the last phase of the layoffs announced in April because of a backlog of shipments to make after the plant mothballed one of its two glass-making lines.

“We retained those people to the end of the year as we shipped material out of the plant,” said Kitterman.

The rest of the layoffs were from the tempering operation, which went from four shifts to three shifts.

Kitterman attributed that reduction to lowered production of solar glass. The Blue Ridge AGC plant in Kingsport produces solar glass, and some of it is tempered at the Greenland facility.

Glass-making operations at Greenland date back to the early 1960s, while the Blue Ridge operation in Kingsport goes back to the early part of the 20th century.

Kitterman said company officials hope that orders for solar glass will pick up in 2009.

No matter the timing of the return of a robust economy, he said solar glass should be a strong component in AGC’s future growth.

“That’s what would drive that second line coming online,” said Kitterman.

He was referring to the possibility that a second line would reopen at the Greenland plant. The company has sought and received tax incentives from Hawkins County for a second line, but he said the proposal has not been approved by AGC’s board, and the timing of any new line would depend on the economy.

On the plus side, Kitterman said no plans are in the works for a “major reduction” at area AGC facilities, although he said the tempering shifts could be adjusted up or down as demand merits.

“Everything’s been affected by the economy,” Kitterman said. “It’s a very difficult time for everybody.”

The initial layoffs announced in April were part of a 40 percent reduction in AGC operations in North America. Sixty-three people at the Corporate Services office in Kingsport lost their jobs in the restructuring plan, while 37 people who work in the fabrication business at the company’s Corporate Services unit in Kingsport will be impacted as AGC seeks a buyer for that business.

After the initial layoffs, AGC had about 250 employees at the Greenland plant, 380 at the Blue Ridge plant and Corporate Services in Kingsport, and 80 at its Abingdon plant.

AGC Flat Glass is headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga.

For more information visit www.afgglass.com.

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