Knauf Insulation Shares $20.5 Million Plant Upgrade with Capito

INWOOD — Knauf Insulation officials hosted U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Monday as they showed off approximately $20.5 million worth of improvements that have been made to the manufacturing plant since it was acquired less than two years ago.

Other local economic development and employment representatives were part of the group that toured the facility as part of Capito's day long visit to Berkeley County. She met with Berkeley Day Report Center staffers and also toured that facility during the afternoon before heading back to Washington, D.C.

Plant manager Jason Wells said much has been accomplished since Knauf acquired the facility in August 2014 from Guardian Building Products (when it sold off its insulation piece of the business) - including a main line conversion that was completed in November 2015.

Although it normally runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the plant did shut down for 54 days at that time to replace the main line, Wells said.

"But in the end, we started up with basically a brand new process," he said.

"And I think it says a lot about the company that they made this kind of significant investment in this building in the first year - and just into the manufacturing process," Wells said, adding that corporate headquarters for the family-owned company (which also operates internationally) is located in Shelbyville, Indiana.

The local plant kept its existing workforce when Knauf purchased it, and now has 83 full-time hourly employees as well as 15 salaried staffers, he said.

This kind of corporate investment is impressive, according to Capito, who said the Eastern Panhandle remains a bright spot in the state's economy - especially when compared to southern, coal dependent counties that are now losing jobs and citizens as mines continue to cease operations.

"It's also good to hear they have plans for further expansion here where there are plans to open a second line. It's also impressive that the binder they use is more eco-friendly," she said, adding that employees were happy to work for this company.

Sand and post-consumer crushed glass are primary ingredients in the company's Knauf EcoBatt Insulation - a unique product that differs from traditional insulation in several ways, said George Phelps, who manages the company's product and legislative affairs.

For example, its natural brown color is not only different but also represents a more environmentally sensitive product that's a result of the company's ECOSE Technology, he said.

ECOSE Technology is a "no added formaldehyde binder" that's used in the company's glass and rock mineral wool range, Phelps said.

Being formaldehyde-free has several advantages including improved air quality as well as reduced workplace exposures and manufacturing emissions, he said.

Additionally, it does not contain phenol, acrylics or artificial colors that are traditionally used to make fiberglass insulation, Phelps said.

By:  Jenni Vincent
Source: Martinsburg Journal