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James Hardie celebrates anniversary, revitalizes the Pulaski community

James Hardie 1By CALVIN PYNN

calvin@southwesttimes.com

 

Since James Hardie started up their plant in Pulaski during the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the company has made a priority of using both their labor and products to help the county move forward.

2013 marks the 125th anniversary of James Hardie, which was founded in Melbourne, Australia in 1888. The Pulaski branch of the company celebrated the anniversary Saturday, Dec. 14 at Squires Student Center at Virginia Tech.

According to Human Resources Director Bob Grove, James Hardie is the most trusted name in fiber cement siding, as their product, Hardie Plank is on 5.5 million homes across the United States.

“For us, the future is about growing our business organically,” said Human Resources director Bob Grove. “We want to continue to develop the fiber cement siding market, and therefore continue to develop our business.”

Many homes in Pulaski contain siding from James Hardie. After the tornadoes in 2011, the company provided 160,000-square-feet of Hardie Plank siding to repair and rebuild homes that were affected.

According to Grove, James Hardie tries to give back to the community in any way possible, working with both the town and schools, and staying involved with charities like Toys-for-Tots and Stuff the Bus.

The company has also contributed to Habitat for Humanity, as they provided their products to construct two homes in Blacksburg through the organization. Roughly 20-25 employees from James Hardie volunteered their time to help with the build.

According to Peggy White, James Hardie’s efforts outside of the plant have helped Pulaski County move forward as a community.

“They’ve definitely reached into the community, and help raise the quality of life,” White said.

When James Hardie established the plant, 160 new jobs opened in Pulaski, and the plant expanded later to almost 300 positions.

“The plant has continued to grow as we went through the downturn here, as well as the hard economic times through the New River Valley,” Grove said. “James Hardie has continued to build and invest and create jobs.

According to Grove, James Hardie’s products are differentiated by the fact that they are engineered for specific climates. They are also known for the ColorPlus technology, in which codes are baked onto the products during the manufacturing process so it won’t have to be painted in the field.

James Hardie decided to set up a plant in Pulaski for a variety of reasons, mainly for the local labor market, as well as the location near the I-81 corridor. Pulaski’s location is one of seven James Hardie plants in the United States, and the only one in the state of Virginia.

It is also the newest and largest plant out of those seven.

For the near future, James Hardie is planning on working with the town of Pulaski to build some homes through other programs, both by supplying products, as well as volunteer manpower. The company is also looking to add about 20 more people to their staff, mainly as operators on the floor, working in any department.