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CertainTeed representatives unveil plans for new White City plant

CertainTeed announced plans Wednesday to build a 150,000-square-foot factory to manufacture fiber cement siding in White City.

Construction is scheduled to start in April on a 38-acre site behind the Imation plant on Pacific Avenue. It's scheduled for completion in early 1999.

CertainTeed will employ 80 people, said Art Gellner, vice president, polymer operations.

Although word of the new plant surfaced Monday, company representatives and economic development officials spelled out details in a press conference Wednesday at the Jackson County Courthouse.

Gellner said the White City siding factory is just the beginning of potential development in the Rogue Valley. The company may relocate its division headquarters to the Northwest this year and that's likely to be in the Rogue Valley, where the action is.

The company is seeking a nearby supplier of cement, which will produce jobs in mining, processing and trucking.

And Gellner said the White City site is big enough to add another building products facility, though no plans have been pinned down.

The company asked me to get sufficient land, just to be prepared, he explained.

CertainTeed, based in Valley Forge, Pa., is the nation's leading manufacturer of vinyl siding, PVC pipe, and asphalt roofing and among the leaders in insulation. It also makes door and window components, ventilation products, fencing and foundation materials.

The existence of the plant will add several hundred direct and indirect jobs that will combine for a $10 million annual payroll, said Bruce Laird, regional representative of the Oregon Economic Development Department.

Gellner said hiring will probably begin this summer. Some of the workers will be trained by the company in Europe or Australia. The siding construction process is a European technology, he explained, but people with the basic skills are already here or can be trained at Rogue Community College.

All but five or six of the workers will be hired in the Rogue Valley, Gellner said.

These are reasonably skilled positions, he said. This is a fully computerized plant.

The White City Urban Renewal Agency has committed $2.3 million to the project, said Jackson County Administrator Burke Raymond. About $1.3 million is being provided for pollution control equipment, $48,000 will be used for sewer connections and $160,000 for water hookups.

The agency is supported by property taxes, most of which come from higher property values within the White City district.

The agency is also subsidizing the price of the property, he said. It was sold to the agency for $760,000; the agency sold it to CertainTeed for $285,000.

We paid Mike Burrill (managing partner of A&B Properties) well below the going price of the land, Raymond said. It's to his advantage because the access road for this property will provide access to some of his other parcels and make it easier to develop his land.

The Burrill family has about 370 acres in that area and is the largest landowner in the Medford Industrial Park in White City.

Raymond said property taxes generated by the new facility will help pay for community improvements in White City.

The urban renewal agency is all about community-building, Raymond said. None of this would be possible if we are not involved in industrial development.

Gellner said the company had considered 15 sites and cut it to a short list of four. The Rogue Valley and Klamath Falls were among finalists. The Rogue Valley prevailed because of its more favorable economy and climate.

Gellner also praised the Southern Oregon recruiting efforts, saying they went beyond relocation to provide assistance in obtaining suppliers and other start-up essentials.

I told the people back in the organization it was like having employees already on the ground out here, he said.

Participants included the Jackson County commissioners and White City Urban Renewal Agency, Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. (SO-REDI), WP Natural Gas and Burrill Properties.

Transportation costs were a big factor in the decision, Gellner explained, and the Rogue Valley provides a central location for cities both north and south.

He said vinyl siding hasn't been popular in this region.

People like to use wood around here, he said. Our product looks like wood and it lasts longer.

CertainTeed has 41 plants and 7,000 employees. It is a subsidiary of Paris-based Saint-Gobain Corp., the world's largest manufacturer of building materials.

Art Gellner, a CertainTeed vice president, outlines plans for the new plant during a press conference Wednesday. - Photo by Steve Johnson