Naugatuck automotive glass plant to close

FLABEG Technical Glas US Coporation, which is set to close early next year, is seen at 451 Church Street on Friday. Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — Flabeg Technical Glass US Corp. will close its Church Street plant early next year, putting 34 people out of work.

The closing marks a sign of current times – the company cites COVID-19 slowing markets and a decline in the need for automotive glass – but it also ends the run of a company that in some form has been in the borough since 1927.

At its peak decades ago, the company employed 300 and during World War II manufactured dials and instrument panels for ships, tanks and airplanes.

Flabeg Automotive Glass Group, a German international glass processing company for the automotive industry, said Friday it will close its Naugatuck location at 451 Church St. by the end of March.

“Light vehicle production outlook for 2022 remains challenging, market constraints are putting a ceiling to the sales potential at least until 2023,” the company said in a press release.

The business, originally Naugatuck Glass Co., started in 1927.

In 2008, it was bought by Flabeg Automotive Glass Group. The business changed its name in 2009, according to Flabeg Technical Glass US Corporation Human Resources Manager Donna Andrew.

Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. President Ronald Pugliese said he learned about the closing Wednesday.

“They’ve been nothing but a good group of people to have worked here in Naugatuck,” Pugliese said.

Town officials are concerned for the number of employees that will be out of employment, Pugliese said.

“That’s probably our most important thing, to help people get new jobs,” Pugliese said.

Pugliese also said the town will work to bring another company to the roughly 45,000-square-foot building. The building is appraised at $1.1 million and sits on 4.78 acres, according to the Naugatuck Assessor’s website.

“We will do our best to get somebody in there,” Pugliese said.

The glass company enjoyed an affluent past throughout its 95-year history, said Naugatuck Historical Society collection manager Bridget Mariano.

Winfield Scott Witherwax founded the company in 1927 after working for the Waterbury Clock Company.

Witherwax knew about the crystals needed to make a clock face. He researched making crystals after World War I and subsequently purchased a small machine for cutting circles and a flat disk for hand beveling small square and rectangle pieces, according to the book, “The History of Naugatuck.”

Witherwax then rented a small building from Megin Construction Co. in the borough and started his operations with three employees.

He was able to survive the Great Depression and thrive, Mariano said.

In the 1930s, Witherwax had 110 employees and by 1947, his business had 300 employees.

“In postwar period, the glass company was ranked among the borough’s most promising industries,” Mariano said, quoting the history book.