JELD-WEN Holding Inc.’s top executive cited plans for continued growth in North Wilkesboro during a March 23 groundbreaking ceremony for a new water tank near the company’s plant on River Road-Liberty Grove Road.
Gary S. Michel, JELD-WEN president and CEO, said the North Wilkesboro plant is important to the company because of the quality product it produces and dedication of the people who work there.
“Most importantly, we’ve made a decision that this is a place we want to call home and want to expand,” said Michel. “It’s an incredible place for us to be.”
He said the new water tank helps JELD-WEN commit to continued growth in North Wilkesboro.
The town’s new 500,000-gallon, 140-foot-tall tank provides water pressure needed for fire safety sprinkler systems that will help JELD-WEN complete an expansion of its plant at the North Wilkesboro industrial park, say town officials.
The plant makes fiberglass door “skins” (facings) and most of the doors that have them. It’s a highly automated operation, including with robotics.
The new water tank also is supposed to improve hydraulics of the town water system from River Road-Liberty Grove Road to N.C. 268 East, an area now served by an elevated storage tank an Flint Hill Road.
Also on March 23, Michel announced that the JELD-WEN plant in North Wilkesboro had been awarded the JELD-WEN CEO’s Operational Excellence Award for 2020 in recognition of its safety and productivity records, growth and how personnel there work together and with the community.
The North Wilkesboro team’s performance in these areas “really made then shine above anyone else in the JELD-WEN family,” he said, adding that this “makes us want to invest even more here.” Michel congratulated plant manager Jeff Mang.
Michel said JELD-WEN looks forward to having neighbors in the industrial park.
North Wilkesboro Town Manager Wilson Hooper said during the ceremony that the water tank will have a transformative impact by providing the N.C. 268 East area and the town’s industrial park on River Road-Liberty Grove Road with the infrastructure it needs for job-creating development.
“For a small town, this was a difficult and complex project to pull off,” said Hooper. He said it had four funding partners until one was lost a year ago during a budget stalemate in Raleigh. The remaining funders had different rules. Hooper noted that North Wilkesboro’s leadership changed twice during the course of the project.
The water tank was funded with a $580,000 community development block grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce, a $200,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation and a $1.9 million low interest loan to the town from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Hooper said the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. was the town’s most important partner in the endeavor.
Wilkes EDC President LeeAnn Nixon said the water tank effort was a good example of the importance of partnerships in economic development.
Nixon said there were about 80 employees at JELD-WEN’S North Wilkesboro plant when the efforts for the water tank started about two years ago.
She said it now has close to 200 employees, which far exceeded the company’s commitment of 29 jobs and an $8 million investment to help secure funding for the water tank.
Based in Charlotte, JELD-WEN is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of doors and windows. It’s a publicly-traded company, with about 22,000 employees worldwide and about 1,000 in North Carolina.
Nixon also spoke about ongoing investments and jobs created by Samaritan’s Purse on N.C. 268 East, as well as its investments at the Wilkes County Airport.
Nixon recognized Ron Wilcox, Samaritan’s Purse’s chief financial officer and a member of the Wilkes EDC board. She said Wilcox’s letter of support for the water tank made a difference with the project’s funders.
“I believe this is just the beginning of so many great things we will experience because of the water tank.”
Kenny Flowers, assistant secretary for the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division, also spoke.
Indiana-based Phoenix Fabricators and Erectors LLC is the construction contractor for the new water tank, with a bid of $2.26 million.