KINGSPORT — AGC Flat Glass plans to shut down one of two production lines at its Blue Ridge Plant in Kingsport in the first quarter next year, impacting as many as 100 employees.
Company spokesman Chris Correnti said the plant’s “K1” furnace was scheduled to be rebuilt in the spring. But AGC officials have decided to delay the rebuild and shut down the line “for some period of time.”
“The exact length of that delay is frankly not decided. It could be maybe even up to a year, but we’re not really sure. It’s going to depend on what happens in the marketplace,” Correnti said.
The plant employs 280 to 300 people, Correnti said. Of those, approximately 100 people are tied to the production line scheduled for closure. Correnti said some of those workers may be given other opportunities within the company, and it’s unclear how many will be laid off.
The plant manufactures glass for the solar industry. Correnti said the business has been negatively impacted by a big influx of imports from China.
“It’s just dramatically increased over the last six months in particular,” Correnti said. “There’s a large oversupply of products in China. They’ve built a lot of factories, and there is not enough demand to cover that over there. So we’re seeing a lot of Chinese imports here.”
He said solar glass imports used to represent less than 50 percent of the market in the United States. Today, imports represent more than 65 percent of the market.
“And we’re seeing infiltrations in other parts of North America and even in other parts of the world. It’s enough to where demand does not support making the investment today in rebuilding the furnace (in Kingsport),” he said.
Still, he said the company hopes to eventually rebuild the line and restore jobs.
“We’re not considering this to be a permanent shutdown. We consider this as a temporary production halt and a temporary delay in the rebuild, and we hope it doesn’t take too much longer before we decide it makes sense to proceed,” Correnti said.
In 2008, AGC shut down one of two production lines at its Church Hill plant, laying off about 250 people at the time. On Monday, Correnti said AGC hopes to eventually restart that line as well.
“We’re very hopeful to be able to start that line in the next couple of years. We think there are some reasons to support that, and we’re trying to work through some of those details. I hope we’ll have an announcement in the near future in that regard, but there is nothing we can publicly disclose at this point,” he said.
He said the line most likely will need a total rebuild. The Church Hill plant manufactures architectural glass for residential and commercial construction projects.
AGC Flat Glass, based in Alpharetta, Ga., is owned by Asahi Glass of Japan.