Windshield factory to close


By Corey Davis
Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Eastern North Carolina economy took a step back Monday as an Ohio-based automotive glass manufacturer is shutting down operations in Halifax County, which includes the loss of more than 200 jobs that reportedly includes employees from the Twin Counties.

Ohio-based Safelite Glass Corp., recognized as the nation’s largest automotive glass installation company, will close its windshield factory on U.S. 301 in Enfield by Oct. 10. The move will lay off 210 employees, officials said. The Enfield plant is responsible for manufacturing one million replacement windshields annually and first opened in 1970.

To help employees impacted by the closure, Safelite president and CEO Tom Feeney said, the company will provide separation packages, job replacement and relocation assistance for positions within and outside of Safelite by obtaining government aid and providing benefits. Officials said the first staff reduction is planned for Sept. 23 before the final closing on Oct. 10.

Cathy Scott, executive director of the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, said while 60 percent of the company’s workforce was from the greater Enfield area, there was a strong possibility several employees from Nash and Edgecombe worked at the plant and will be out of work because of the manufacturing plant ceasing operations.

Safelite public relations manager Melina Metzger said the local economy wasn’t a factor in closing rather than investments necessary to keep up with changes needed for windshield manufacturing.

“This decision is by no means a reflection of the community, our associates or our products,” Feeney said. “We are proud of the work at our manufacturing plant and made every effort to find solutions to remain open. We worked with many state, county and local officials along the way, and we thank them for their partnership. North Carolina has many ‘jobs of the future’ on the way, and we hope our people will find gainful employment either through these new opportunities or others within Safelite.”

In spite of the closing of Safelite, there is some positive news on the horizon with an announcement made by state officials in June about SWELECT Energy Systems bringing 155 jobs to Halifax County in the next five years at Halifax Corporate Park.

The company will invest nearly $5 million into the manufacturing site and an adjacent solar farm with plans to be in production by mid-2017, officials said. In addition to SWELECT Energy Systems, Feeney said, the Enfield community also will receive an economic boost with the new CSX rail-to-truck terminal set to be built on U.S. 301 in nearby Edgecombe County in Rocky Mount employing 300 permanent terminal jobs and paying an average wage of $64,000.

“We have new companies under construction that will create jobs that we hope will serve as employment opportunities for those displaced workers from Safelite,” Scott said.