PGT to make more glass and more jobs

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VENICE, FL - One of the largest employers on the Suncoast broke ground on a new $14 million expansion Thursday morning.

PGT Industries turned dirt on a 90,000 square foot glass factory. The new plant is located just a few blocks over from their main headquarters in North Venice. It will allow the company to make all of their own glass. Right now they only make a portion of it.

"This facility will allow us to produce all of our glass and turn that product around quicker." PGT president and CEO Rod Hershberger says the facility will help the create their products at a better cost while also creating jobs. "We will probably create about fifty to sixty jobs. In the next couple years we think it will be well over one hundred."

At the low point of the recession, the manufacturer had dropped their staff to around 900 workers. Now they’re back up close to 1,500. That’s steady growth for the company which started with four employees in Venice in 1980.

Venice mayor John Holic says it's great to see. "To have them expand is just a sign they are going to stay here and that they are growing. It's a healthy company and healthy place for people to work."

That diversification of the local economy excites those like Mark Huey with Sarasota County's Economic Development Corporation. "Our community has great strengths as a retirement community and as a tourism community, but it benefits us all when we can broaden that base."

Hershberger says the jobs are good paying, too. "They are a little higher quality job than what you would consider a regular manufacturing job."

He says it will take months to train new employees. Right now the area and the country as a whole is seeing a shortage of skilled labor. Huey says their working on it. "Right now at SCTI there is a class of students who are working to earn their certification to be able to come and work at places like PGT and other manufacturers in our community."

And that could be good news for those who want to get to and make it work right here on the Suncoast. "It is a great place, and we want to make sure that families feel like their kids can continue to live in this community and we can build an economic groundswell of work here so people can stay here."