ODELL — In less than two weeks, Cardinal Glass Industries will fire up its first assembly line and begin producing insulated glass windows.
David Windsor, general manager, said he is pleased that the Highway 35 plant was able to be constructed within five months to meet its Jan. 19 opening timeline. He credits the initial success of the venture for the united efforts of Hood River County officials. When Cardinal announced in early 2003 that it had purchased 12 acres of the lower Hanel Mill, local government leaders helped the company gain startup tax breaks and streamline the regulations for redevelopment of the industrial site.
“It’s amazing how it all came together as planned. We expected to make our first unit in mid-January and that’s exactly what happened,” Windsor said. The first 75 new Cardinal employees from the Gorge are ready to take their places at the line. These workers have spent three months receiving hands-on training in the cutting, tempering and insulating of glass. They were sent in small groups to obtain that specialized education at other Cardinal holdings in Wisconsin and Indiana.
But Windsor is not done hiring yet. He anticipated that the employee count could double by the end of 2004. In the immediate future, he is bringing 15 more workers on board. Since a single shift can produce about 1,000 window units, he wants to start a swing shift by March and will need an additional 20-25 laborers. A couple of months after increasing production, he will start interviewing between 40-45 potential staffers so that he can open up a second insulating glass line.
Windsor looks for production to climb steadily since new orders are coming in faster than he expected. “We’ve had a much stronger reception with window manufacturers in the Northwest than we hoped for because we’ve established a presence here,” he said. Windsor said Cardinal is striving to be a “good neighbor” in return for the warm welcome by county officials and community members.
For example, he said 50 trees have been planted to screen the 186,000-square foot industrial building from Highway 35 to protect the viewscape. In addition, he said the grounds around the facility have been completely landscaped to help it better blend with the surrounding countryside. Windsor believes that Cardinal is a “good fit” for the Mid-Columbia since it has a proven track record of being environmentally-friendly and brings much-needed jobs.
“We’ve found a lot of local talent and support here and we are very appreciative of that,” he said.