Friday, June 23, 2006

Franklin County business expands, creating 175 jobs

MW Manufacturers in Rocky Mount will take over the former Lane Furniture building.

ROCKY MOUNT -- Franklin County's largest employer will invest $23 million to add 175 jobs and expand into a former furniture plant, whose closing five years ago hit Rocky Mount hard.

MW Manufacturers, which makes doors and windows, is expanding its facility into the former Lane Furniture building across North Main Street from MW's current plant.

MW already employs 2,500 people, with 1,400 of those in Rocky Mount, to produce and distribute window and door products for residential construction. A $100,000 grant from the Governor's Opportunity fund and $100,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission helped secure the expansion and the jobs, which will pay between $11 and $15 an hour, against competition from New Jersey and North Carolina.

MW Manufacturers President Lynn Morstad said the incentives package put together by the state and local governments "compelled us to select Franklin County as our site for expansion."

Gov. Tim Kaine, who announced the expansion, said Franklin County is "a great place to do business," due largely to its work force.

"You've got a work ethic that is second to none that MW knows because of its current employees," Kaine said.

The economic development announcement was the second for Franklin County in as many months. In May, McAirlaid's Vliesstoffe GmbH & Co. KG, a German manufacturer, announced it would invest $85 million in a corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility three miles south of Rocky Mount. That company is expected to bring 160 jobs.

"This outbreak of good news is no coincidence," said Rocky Mount Mayor Mark Newbill. "All of us that live here in Rocky Mount and Franklin County know that we offer a world-class business environment."

Franklin County Board of Supervisors Chairman Wayne Angell said that with Thursday's announcement, the county this year has been promised more than $100 million in industrial investment.

"We believe that's in large part made possible by this community's investment in its people and development of their skills," Angell said. "We don't have the greatest industrial infrastructure. We don't have huge shell buildings and those sorts of things. But without the dedication and skilled people to do the tasks that are appointed them, then no business will succeed."

Earl Dodson, the general manager of MW's Lineal Technologies division, said the 730,000-square-foot Lane building will be renovated and should be ready by this fall. The Lane Furniture closing, announced in June 2001, cost the county 550 jobs by the end of that year.

With the expansion, MW will manufacture polyvinyl chloride plastic, also known as PVC. The PVC plastic will then be melted down for extruded plastic components to produce vinyl windows.

Previously, MW had purchased those materials from an outside source. The extrusion product will also be used to supply other companies owned by MW's parent, Ply Gem Industries.

Because of internal growth and new acquisitions by Ply Gem, demand for plastic extrusions within the company has grown more than 400 percent in the past four years, Morstad said.

The expansion will be MW's third since 1999. The most recent occurred in 2003, when Lineal Technologies moved from Roanoke to Rocky Mount, bringing 130 jobs with it.

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