Local and state officials celebrated bringing "The Pink Panther" to the area on Friday with the official announcement that Owens Corning in 2016 will open a new manufacturing operation in an empty plant west of Joplin.
A large crowd gathered at the former Mars Pet Food site to hear Gov. Jay Nixon and officials from the city, county and Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce welcome the new industry that will employ at least 100 workers.
Julian Frances, president of Owens Corning's insulation division, said the company "is thrilled to be bringing The Pink Panther to Missouri," a reference to the cartoon character used in the firm's advertising for residential insulation.
He said the plant will be manufacturing a type of mineral wool insulation used most often in commercial buildings for fire protection and to reduce noise and energy use. The product is in use, he said, in the One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the U.S, and the tallest building in the world, located in Dubai.
The Fortune 500 company is a global manufacturer of insulation, roofing and fiberglass composites. It employs 15,000 workers in 26 counties. The company got into the thermafiber insulation business after acquiring Thermafiber Inc. in 2013. Sales growth has exceeded expectations, Frances said, creating the need for the expansion.
"We'll be making a $90 million investment here for that new growth," he said.
"The fact that this international company that could go anywhere has chosen to locate here sends a message to other manufacturers about what this area, and Missouri, has to offer," said Nixon. "And we love it when we can produce in Missouri and sell overseas."
The governor also praised Jasper County as a certified work ready community, meaning there is an approach in place to produce a quality workforce with the skills needed by employers.
"Owens Corning will hire the best workers, and they'll be able to get them here," he said.
Jasper County was the first county in the state to receive the work ready certification, a program launched in Missouri by the governor, noted Rob O'Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the team that worked to bring the company to the Joplin area.
O'Brian said the effort started 14 months ago and involved partners, including the state, city of Joplin, Jasper County and the Joplin Business and Industrial Development Authority. He also credited Carl Junction schools and Empire District Electric Co. for its work to ensure the plant will have the needed power.
Joplin Mayor Mike Seibert also expressed the city's thanks to officials in Galena, Kansas, which provides water and sewer service to the plant located on State Line Road.
"This really is a regional effort," he said.
The company will receive 10 years of tax breaks on the plant property and manufacturing equipment to be installed there. Those breaks, along with others from the state, hinge on commitments by the company to offer workers wages and benefits at a rate of 120 percent above the county average. A performance agreement outlining commitments by local and state governments and the company was approved Friday by the Jasper County Commission.
Based in Toledo, Ohio, Owens Corning manufactures insulation, roofing and fiberglass composites, and employs 15,000 people in 26 countries. In 2014, net sales totaled $5.3 bilion.