PGW glass plant reopening

When Evart’s PPG Glass Plant shut down a couple years back, it was indicative of the tough times the community, state, and nation were going through.

The plant closed because there simply wasn’t enough business in the auto industry to make it a sustainable operation.

For two years, PPG stood largely empty.

A big “For Sale” sign decorated the front lawn.

There were no buyers ... luckily enough as it turns out.

PPG — now known as PGW Glass — is set to reopen the Evart plant, indicative of the uptick in auto manufacturing and sales nationwide.

It’s a good thing for Evart — a very good thing.

“We had what was almost an empty building sitting there and nobody really knew what was going to happen with it,” said Evart city manager Zack Szackas. “But everything has changed ... basically overnight.”

With an increase in automobile production in Michigan and around the country, PGW found itself needing to increase production of auto glass as well.

“The key factor that really affected what happened in the Evart plant is that when they closed down and moved out, PPG left two production lines and one furnace in the building for storage,” Szackas said.

“Basically, the operation was there, set up, and waiting for someone to turn on the switch in the morning.

“Recently, the company’s reorganizational effort opened up new contracts with other auto companies that made it necessary for them to rethink their production capability.”

There also were changes at the top.

In 2008, Kohlberg & Company, L.L.C. purchased a controlling interest in PPG. The name changed to PGW (Pittsburgh Glass Works L.L.C.)

According to its own profile, Kohlberg is a firm that “... typically makes investments in middle market companies with enterprise values between $100 million and $500 million and seeks to provide equity capital of $50 million to $125 million.”

“Corporate planners saw the new growth in the auto industry and realized that the plant in Evart was actually pretty much ready to be functional once again,” Szackas said.

“We were an active ‘player’ in this corporate planning — without really knowing about it.”

PGW officials contacted the Michigan Economic Development Corporation with regard to tax issues. At some stage, however, corporate planners realized they had business basically backing up and they needed to be up and running ... quick.

“The PGW folks decided to move faster, discussing opportunities with MichiganWorks! for help in training programs and other issues, and looking for basic local tax incentives,” Szackas said.

“They decided to move forward quickly.

“I was told that by the beginning of March, engineers will be on site seeing what needs to be done. They plan to start hiring key employees by the second week in March.

“I’ve been told they (PGW) hopes to be back up to production by mid-April.”

It will be a carefully considered process. City officials report that re-hiring will reflect this careful progression from shutdown to start-up with hiring to include up to 47 new employees when the plant gets back up to three shifts.

“We’ve been told they are talking about 8-15 employees per shift,” Szackas said.

“This, I imagine, will depend on their orders and production needs.”

City officials have been in discussion with PGW regarding certain tax abatements - basically covering new equipment that may be brought on site.

“The glass plant has had tax abatements in the past,” Szackas said. “They’ve been a good neighbor and those previous abatements expired as per contracted.

“Everything was done right.

“Now they need to install some new machinery, furniture, computer and communications systems - everything needed to run a plant of this size. They’ve ask for some tax help and we are more than happy to give incentives where we can.”

The reopening of the PGW glass plant exciting for city officials and county economic developers.

“This is really big news for us,” Szackas said. “They (PGW) and in the process of notifying their venders, notifying Chrysler, basically telling everyone the Evart plant is ready to be up and running.

“Our industrial base continues to grow and prosper.

“We are very, very happy, and looking forward a great working relationship with PGW.

“There are good things happening in Evart.”