Corning already talking expansion as it dedicates Newton optical cable plant

02.02.2018, 11:43

“We may need another one of these things,” he told about 75 people participating in the ceremony Friday morning. Kinlin is executive vice president of Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW) and is based in Hickory.

As consumers demand faster and faster downloads on their mobile devices, the market for optical fiber encased in cable is growing tremendously. For Corning, the demand comes from data center operators and major telecom and television carriers who need the cable for boosting bandwidth, Kinlin says.

In February, Corning announced 410 new jobs for two Charlotte-area plants: the Newton plant and its optical fiber plant in Cabarrus County. Total cost of the expansions was $176 million at the two facilities.

Corning plans to spend a total of $250 million to build its optical fiber and cable to meet that same demand, says John Igel, vice president and general manager or Corning Optical Fiber and Cable.

In Newton, Corning bought a former General Dynamics plant on Prodelin Drive for the new optical cable facility. Eventually, the plant will employ 200 workers.

The Midland plant, located on U.S. Highway 601 in Cabarrus County, opened in the late 1990s during the optical fiber boom and quickly grew to employ 900. A crisis in worldwide overproduction of optical fiber forced the plant to trim to 200 employees in the early 2000s.

That Midland plant now supplies optical fiber to the new Newton plant. There, it’s bundled inside the cables and rolled on large spools for transport to customers.

The Hickory headquarters for Corning’s optical fiber and cable business will relocate to northwest Mecklenburg to be a component of Riverbend Village, a mixed-use development under construction at an Interstate 485 interchange. There, the $38 million Corning division will employ 650.

Randy Isenhower, chairman of the Catawba Board of County Commissioners, says the Hickory area is glad to have the production jobs.

“Corning and Catawba County have a strong heritage in manufacturing,” he says. There another cable plant in Hickory in addition to the Corning cable facility in Winston-Salem.

Isenhower says Corning has been a good corporate citizen in the Hickory area. Corning contributed to the K64 initiative in Catawba County, which is working to ensure that local schools are preparing students for work in local industry.

All told, Corning has 4,000 employees in North Carolina.

Kinlin confirmed that other states in the Southeast tried to lure Corning away with generous incentives when the company weighed where to make more optical fiber and cable. Instead, Corning wanted to add more capacity near its current plants.

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