Libbey to spend millions upgrading Toledo glass plant

Libbey Inc. says it will invest $40 million to $60 million to upgrade and replace equipment in its factory here, helping the glassmaker keep up with foreign competition and protecting about 1,070 jobs in the Toledo area.

Libbey chief executive John Meier said Friday the three-year investment will automate some inspection, packaging, and shipping duties.About half the money will be used to buy new equipment.

In return, the company is getting an incentive package that includes at least $6 million in savings on local property taxes and state inventory taxes over 10 years.

"This city is the Glass City and it is the glass capital of the world," Meier said. "This collaborative effort announced today goes a long way in having Toledo keep that distinction."

Meier denied "rumors" that Libbey had threatened to leave the site where it has made glass since 1888.

City Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz said the economic incentives were key to retaining one of the Toledo's major blue-collar employers.

"Had we not been here today to announce what we're announcing, there's a real good chance Toledo would be the former glass capital of the world," Kapszukiewicz said.

The deal includes asking the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish a federal foreign trade zone surrounding the plant, which would exempt the company from Ohio's tax on business equipment. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the Toledo school board also must approve the trade zone designation.

With the status, Libbey could decide to expand the plant's warehouse and increase operations - and perhaps jobs - in Toledo, said Bruce Harmon, president of Flint Glass Workers Local 700, now part of the United Steelworkers of America. It is one of four unions at the plant.

Workers were concerned about Libbey investing at other plants, Harmon said. Union wages average $13 to $14.50 an hour, he said.

Libbey has two other U.S. glass plants in Shreveport, La., and City of Industry, Calif. Toledo lost 85 jobs to the Louisiana plant in October after officials there came up with a better incentive package for the consolidation of Libbey's drinking-glass decorating unit.

Plant manager Bill Herb acknowledged the new equipment planned for the Toledo plant likely will eliminate some jobs. It's unclear how many could be cut, he said, but the company would try to achieve the reductions through retirements and attrition.

The remaining jobs will be higher-skilled and higher-paying, Herb said.

The Libbey investment is the second recent announcement that a large local corporation will stay in Toledo. City and port authority officials announced last month that a deal had been made to keep Owens Corning in its international headquarters downtown.

600450 Libbey to spend millions upgrading Toledo glass plant
Date: 10 June 2003

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