Word on the Street: PPG plant to produce specialty glass

The Fresno BeeJune 22, 2014 

Ray Yee, plant manager of glass manufacturer PPG Industries, talks about the process to make window glass, in front of the furnace where sand and other ingredients are used to make it. The Fresno plant will soon make a new kind of glass using oxygen to melt the sand.

JOHN WALKER — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

The Fresno plant of PPG Industries is one of only six production facilities in the world to use oxy-fuel furnace technology. Now Fresno will be a producer of specialty glass Starphire, which will be manufactured using the oxy-fuel processes.

PPG, a Pittsburgh-based producer of specialty glass and plexiglass, developed Starphire nearly 20 years ago, according to Fresno plant manager Ray Yee.

Starphire is a specialty glass that has architectural uses, like in office buildings featuring large glass windows. Until recently, it has been produced only at the company's main facility in Pennsylvania.

With increasing demand, PPG wanted to stay true to its LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Adding Starphire production in Fresno for West Coast customers helps with that, according to Yee.

Fresno's oxy-fuel system eliminates emissions of nitrous oxide in flat glass, which Yee said is common in glass production, by using almost solely oxygen to generate heat in the sand-melting process.

"It's a cleaner, hotter fuel with no NOX (nitrous oxide)," Yee said.

Starphire is known for its clarity and lack of green tint, which Yee said is common in other glass.

PPG will not be taking on any new employees in Fresno, but will instead divert some of the employee power used for flat glass to produce Starphire glass.

Yee said the plant has already had a smaller test run and is about to try its first full production test. He expects to be fully operational with Starphire in about a month.

The PPG Fresno facility has been operating for around 45 years. The plant, at 3333 S. Peach Ave., has 150 employees and produces 500 tons of flat glass annually.

In 2013, the company's net sales were $15.1 billion, with glass accounting for 7% of the total.

Contest seed money aids jobless workers

When someone gives you $1,000, what do you do with it?

On Ramps Covenant Church knew exactly what to do: start a social enterprise.

Say Hello Advertising is a social enterprise business that manifested out of Fresno Pacific University's Faith-Rooted Social Business Plan contest.

On Ramps Church submitted its idea for Say Hello advertising and won third, giving it $1,000 in prize money.

"We remove barriers so that employees can move forward with their lives," said Phil Skei, a pastor at On Ramps — also the company's home base — at 1719 L St. in Fresno.

Say Hello employs only those who are unemployed, underemployed or considered unemployable and helps them make themselves more attractive to businesses, Skei said.

Working at Say Hello creates a job history. Say Hello also offers to help employees settle law disputes, get driver's licenses and help with dental work.

Social enterprises are businesses that use business disciplines and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas for the common good, according to the Social Enterprise Alliance.

Founded in March, Say Hello uses its seven employees to design and distribute paper fliers. The company has had 10 clients so far, including Neighborhood Thrift store, Habitat for Humanity, Oliver Baines' City Council campaign, real estate agents and other churches.

Say Hello charges clients $0.30 to $0.60 per door that gets a flier.

"We're not paying a living wage," Skei said. "Instead, we're filling a gap. What they earn is the difference between a family of five living in a one-bedroom apartment versus a three-bedroom apartment."

Since On Ramps is a nonprofit as a church, Say Hello expects to branch off from them soon and become a for-profit business, Skei said. However, he expects the church still will be involved.

Nathan Hunt, a sales manager at Say Hello, doesn't hope to retain many employees. Rather, he hopes they will go on to other jobs where they can earn enough to support themselves.


Helen Tracey-Noren contributed to Word on the Street. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6279, htraceynoren@fresnobee. com, or @HtraceyNoren on Twitter.

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