Meanwhile, AGC’s top official says he’s hopeful about the future of the company’s Kingsport and Church Hill operations.
Contacted at corporate headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., AGC Chief Executive Officer Brad Kitterman said the company plans to halt production at its Jerry Run Plant in Bridgeport, W.Va. The facility manufactures glass for the automotive industry.
“Since about mid-December things have dropped off significantly in terms of demand in a number of different sectors that we service, and the automotive has been one of the big contributors to that,” Kitterman said.
Mike Morris, manager at the West Virginia facility, said the plant’s production line has been placed on “hot hold.”
“That basically means we’re stopping production, but we’ll keep heat on the furnace to try to maintain the structure of it until it’s decided we can start production back up,” Morris said.
The majority of employees will be sent home. But 60 workers will stay on the job to maintain the plant while it’s in “hot hold” status.
“About 80 percent of our production is for the automotive industry, but with the decline in the automotive, shipments have dropped off drastically. We’re at a point where all the plants are building inventory pretty quickly, so we’re going to hold production for a while,” Morris said.
AGC has seven primary flat glass manufacturing plants in North America, including its Blue Ridge Plant in Kingsport and its Greenland Plant in Church Hill.
AGC manufactures glass for the building products industry at its Church Hill plant. Last spring, the company shut down one of two production lines at the facility and laid off about 250 people.
Earlier this year, AGC laid off more than 30 employees at the Church Hill plant.
Kitterman said the company is investing in a coater at the facility to allow it to produce a broader range of coated products. He said he also hopes to restart the plant’s second line but hasn’t received formal approval from the company’s board of directors.
“But we are still working toward that, and I think it’s a good likelihood that it will happen in 2010,” Kitterman said.
The Blue Ridge Plant in Kingsport manufactures pattern glass for the solar industry.
Kitterman called the solar products segment “the highlight of our business.”
“We have seen some drop-off in it as well just because of cash issues associated with start-up companies. But we’re hopeful that with the investment tax credit being renewed in the U.S., and some of the programs being discussed to try to stimulate the economy — part of which are associated with alternative energy — that we’ll see a very healthy growth in the solar business,” he said.
Kitterman said no plans are in the works for a “major reduction” at local AGC operations, but tempering shifts could be adjusted up or down as demand merits.
“We’re constantly evaluating the situation,” he said.
AGC employs about 250 at the Greenland plant, and 380 at the Blue Ridge plant and Corporate Services in Kingsport.
The company also operates a coating facility in Abingdon, employing 80 people there.