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"Green" jobs are nothing new for EFCO

Monday, August 3, 2009

One of the most recognized examples of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project in southwest Missouri has been the Green Circle shopping center on Republic Road in Springfield. Using EFCO storefront products, a "green" grass-growing roof and pervious concrete, the shopping center has been certified as the first LEED platinum retail space in the United States.
"Green technology" and "green jobs" are buzzwords these days emphasizing environmentally friendly ways of doing business. While the talk has been new, the ideas are not.

EFCO Corporation President Mike Farquhar stressed that point recently at a Monett Chamber of Commerce meeting with representatives from federal lawmakers serving the community. David Rauch, field representative for Senator Claire McCaskill, followed up with a two-and-a-half hour visit to EFCO to see personally what "green" jobs are already here.

"EFCO is proud of our long history of providing our customers with products that lead the industry with superior energy efficiency," said Farquhar. "Green jobs are not new to us. They've always been at the backbone of our business."

In material provided for Rauch's visit, EFCO was shown to have provided energy saving products from its first line in 1953. EFCO introduced thermally improved framing in the 1970s when the company led the industry in introducing replacement windows targeted at saving energy.

In the 1990s, E-Strut thermal improvements were introduced to enhance the energy efficiency of EFCO's products. Expanding into the curtain wall business beginning in the late 1980s, EFCO offered some of the most energy efficient systems available. Farquhar said the 5500 Wall leads the industry in performance.

Many industrial processes involve significant production of waste. Farquhar said EFCO not only draws on abundant resources, such as aluminum and glass, but noted both are among the most recyclable materials.

"Aluminum can be reused again and again and not lose its qualities," Farquhar said.

Many industries may also have to haul materials from great distances to make products. With Hydro Aluminum located a half-mile from EFCO's main facility in Monett, accessing metal resources expends a smaller amount of fossil fuels than a great many industrial operations.

EFCO is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building projects, EFCO has further made its mark at the forefront of the industry in demonstrating how to build "green." For example, EFCO products were used extensively in the Green Circle Shopping Center on Republic Road in Springfield, one of the premier examples in southwest Missouri of applied energy-saving technology.

In its current operations, EFCO is in the process of installing a thermal oxidizer, a significant capital investment, so that the Monett plant emits much cleaner air used in its manufacturing processes. Installation is expected to be finished by Jan. 1, 2010.

EFCO continues to actively recycle materials to drop the amounts ending up in landfills.

One of the business practices used by Pella, EFCO's parent company, has been training employees to respond to rapid change. Over 9,600 events have trained 62,000 employees at Pella and its companies in Kaizen training since 1993. Kaizen is the Japanese word for rapid change. Farquhar said the approach has supported continuous improvement efforts and driven waste out of the production processes.

"As an industry leader, EFCO has sustained creating good-paying green jobs for more than 50 years, and we're proud to provide quality careers for over 1,500 members in Monett that are dedicated to serving our customers," Farquhar said.

As recognition to that heritage, a "heritage wall" has recently been added to the executive offices at the main Monett plant. Large photos of company founder Terry Fuldner and long-time President Chris Fuldner are among pictures, clippings from The Times and other memorabilia that show how the company has developed and grown over time.

Farquhar said it has been fun for him to meet with Dayton Mackey and others who participated in the formation of the Monett Industrial Development Corporation 60 years ago. The Monett Industrial Park has represented a classic success story with industries supporting each other as well as smaller tool and dye shops keeping the larger operations in running order.

"We have all benefitted from their foresight and hopefully contributed to it," Farquhar said.

In the same vein, Pella has demonstrated environmental stewardship back to 1925 with 8,600 green jobs, including those at EFCO. Focused on energy efficiency from the outset, Pella has concentrated on wood, glass, fiberglass and vinyl windows and doors, as well as aluminum products in which EFCO concentrates.

Pella also uses abundant and recyclable resources, emphasizes LEED-certified environmental responsibility and makes products for home use, in addition to the commercial emphasis brought by EFCO. Pella has a long record of recognition under the industry's Energy Star and other quality standards.

"We've encouraged political leaders like Senators McCaskill and [Kit] Bond and Congressman [Roy] Blunt not to get too enamored with new jobs created to conserve energy," said Farquhar. "New technologies are important, but we want them to remember what we're doing, so we can be in Monett a long time."

EFCO has been having a "very strong summer," Farquhar said. Schools in particular have been concentrating on renovations and additions using federal stimulus money, generating orders from EFCO.

"We've been really fortunate. The economy has not had much of an impact on EFCO," Farquhar said. "While there have been layoffs by our competitors, we have plans to open more distribution centers. The negative economy is a chance to grow EFCO's market share and satisfy our customers better than we ever could.

"We're going to come out of the recession stronger," Farquhar added. "We anticipate the first half of 2010 could be more challenging, but so far, so good. We're putting our head down and driving."

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