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Once the Viracon plant upgrade is complete next year, workers will be able to produce larger pieces of glass with highly technical coatings for the first time.

Viracon ,

Apogee chooses Owatonna over Georgia for $30 million investment

  • Article by: Dee DePass
  • Star Tribune
  • February 25, 2013 - 9:39 PM

Apogee Enterprises Inc. said Monday that it will pump $30 million into its glass factory in Owatonna, Minn., after getting millions in tax incentives from the city.

The decision is a huge win for the city of ­Owatonna, which was in competition with an Apogee plant in Georgia for the investment. Owatonna offered a $4.9 million tax incentive package plus a $1.4 million infrastructure grant.

“We are thankful,” Apogee spokeswoman Mary Ann Jackson said in an interview. “The incentives we were able to obtain in Minnesota helped us make the decision to invest there. Support from the city, county and state [were] a pivotal factor.”

Apogee’s $30 million investment in Owatonna involves a building expansion, a new glass-coater and other technology that cuts manufacturing costs, boosts efficiencies and coats larger pieces of glass with highly technical coatings for the first time. The investment means that the city will retain 1,200 factory jobs and even gain “a handful of new engineering” hires, Jackson said.

Troy Klecker, Owatonna’s community development director, said there was talk last week that the city may have won the bidding war against Georgia, but nothing official came until Monday. “We will have to have a little party on this one,” he said. “Everyone is excited.”

Apogee publicly announced a month ago that it was throwing Statesboro, Ga., and Minnesota into a bidding contest. Owatonna and Steele County officials said at the time that they had been working on a plan for months to keep jobs in town.

In the end, Owatonna Mayor Thomas Kuntz said he believed that Georgia may have offered Apogee more money than Minnesota, but the combination of the company’s larger and highly skilled Owatonna workforce plus financial incentives made a local expansion here the better choice. “This is great news for our guys,” said Kuntz.

Statesboro city officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Apogee spokeswoman Jackson declined to discuss Georgia, but acknowledged that “Owatonna is our biggest campus, so we have our greatest technology pool there. And we have most of our capabilities there. So those were also some of the factors” in deciding to invest in Minnesota.

Apogee’s Viracon glassmaking complex in Owatonna employs 1,200 — nearly half of the company’s U.S. workforce. Viracon has made exterior glass for buildings such as the Xcel Energy Center, TCF Bank Stadium, Taipei 101 in Taiwan and the new World Trade Center in New York City. Viracon is a subsidiary of Apogee.

As part of the project, the city of Owatonna will relocate gas, electric, sewer and stormwater systems from the expansion site beginning in April. The city will also shut part of its Fourth Street, which runs through the middle of Viracon’s four-building complex. Fourth Street will become a cul-de-sac and house the new building addition and coater, Klecker said.

Infrastructure changes should finish by summer’s end. Viracon’s building construction should wrap up by December and the coater should begin producing high-grade exterior glass by late summer of 2014, he said.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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