VINELAND — Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to the Richland Glass plant for two and a half days in October, threatening about 10 percent of the company’s monthly production output.
But the company met all its orders, which was attributed to what Richland Glass officials called a dedicated work force empowered by training that made its almost 100 employees more efficient and productive.
Those employees — and company leaders — now will become even better trained to compete against domestic and international competition.
State Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Harold J. Wirths was at the plant on South West Boulevard to award the company a $48,000 Skills4Jersey grant. The grants — part of a $26 million Hire New Jersey package — are designed to help state businesses overcome Sandy’s impact and bolster the state’s post-storm economic recovery.
The money, to which Richland Glass will add $76,496 in company funds, will help train 48 employees in areas that include streamlining manufacturing, operations management and marketing.
“Our focus is to train the work force with the skills needed to move forward in the Garden State industries that hold the most promise for our economic future,” Wirths said. “In turn, the industries become more competitive and prosperous.”
Richland Glass co-owner Jack Carson said that is important, as his company is competing against products made in places such as China.
“As a manufacturer who sells all over the world to the electronics and biotech industries, continuous improvement of our employees is key to keeping and adding jobs,” Carson said. “We feel that empowering our people with these skills make our employees more competitive.”
The grant awarded Wednesday was the third that Richland Glass — which makes standard and customized glass products — has received from the department. Company officials said the grants helped finance training for about 75 percent of their employees.
Millville resident Jackie Loth, who went through the earlier training, said it was helpful.
“It really has helped us in terms of production,” said Loth, who works in quality control. “We can get our orders out faster to our customers.”
Richland Glass continues a longstanding tradition of glass-producing companies based in Cumberland County. Those companies at one point employed thousands of people at plants that operated around the clock and shipped products around the world. Most of those manufacturing jobs were lost as the county’s economy started slumping in the 1970s and 1980s, hurt in part by competition from the plastics industry.
Wirths toured the Richland Glass plant Wednesday with company officials and others. He called the grants awarded to the company and other firms “taxpayer money being put to a good use.”
“Manufacturing is key,” he said.
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