Glass factory hopes going green earns green

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NAUGATUCK — A local glass manufacturing company is seeking a federal grant to help it expand, create dozens of jobs and form a partnership with the University of Connecticut to train students in green energy technology.

Flabeg Solar U.S. Corp., the former Naugatuck Glass Co., plans to add about 80 jobs to its work force of 92 employees.

The company wants to develop more solar mirror panels for large-scale renewable energy products.

Company executives told U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) last Thursday that public investment in the plant would allow it to expand into the growing solar energy market that already accounts for a majority of the company’s sales. Flabeg is one of five companies nationwide that are producing glass mirrors for solar energy products, company executives said.

Glass machine operator Arnie Verban  works on a pieces of glass to be used as instrumentation for aircrafts in Naugatuck on Thursday. The Glass Company is applying for $2 million in federal grant money to expand and form a partnership with UConn to teach kids how to make solar energy producing products.
Glass machine operator Arnie Verban works on a pieces of glass to be used as instrumentation for aircrafts in Naugatuck on Thursday. The Glass Company is applying for $2 million in federal grant money to expand and form a partnership with UConn to teach kids how to make solar energy producing products.

Last year the company did about $126 million in solar product sales, $99 million in automotive sales (mirrors for cars) and about $23 million in technical glass sales, such as cosmetic products. The company produces most of the mirrors for cosmetic products that are found in stores.

DeLauro vowed to work with Flabeg to secure federal dollars.

“If we want to keep our company prosperous and competitive over the next century,” she said. “we need to return to an outlook in America that prizes and supports manufacturing.”

She said because Flabeg builds glass products for a growing solar energy market, it could use public investment to create more jobs.

The company said it has already pumped tens of millions of dollars into upgrades of its plants, in Naugatuck and worldwide, and cannot afford to expand any further within the next five years without public investment. The company has never taken federal money.

Mayor Bob Mezzo, in a support letter for the public investment, said the savings and revenue generated from the program would help the company grow.

He said the anticipated benefits are:

  • The creation of a University of Connecticut Solar Technical Center of Excellence at the plan that would work in conjunction with the Institute of Materials Science at UConn, Storrs.
  • The creation of green energy jobs in Connecticut.
  • The elimination of lead in solar materials because new products would eliminate the need for lead
  • Elimination of the need to import large amounts of hazardous materials because the company would work with more American companies as it expands.
  • Development of technology that creates local manufacturing jobs; company executives said most of the plant employees are from Naugatuck, Waterbury and Beacon Falls.

The company cited experience in the field as one of the major reasons why it will continue to be successful in working with solar energy products.

While other companies are just starting to tap into the solar market because of the government’s push toward green energy, Flabeg and Naugatuck Glass Co. have been working in the field for 30 years, said company executive Pat McGinley.