MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) -- Despite the struggling U.S. economy, an owner of a plumbing and heating products company that just opened a new manufacturing and distribution plant here is optimisticic that things will turn around soon.
"Your country will be strong again, I trust it," Heinz-Bernd Viegener told a crowd of about 900 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for German-based Viega GmbH & Co.'s new 439,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution plant in the central Kansas town of McPherson.
Co-owners Viegener and his cousin, Walter Viegener, both attended the event.
The McPherson plant is the largest PEX -- cross-linked polyethylene -- extrusion manufacturing facility in the nation. It has extrusion and injection molding operations and distribution and office space.
Viega currently employs about 210 workers in McPherson and about 500 total in North America. It has 2,800 workers worldwide. It has distribution centers Merrimack, N.H., and Reno, Nev., plus a training facility in Nashua, N.H.
Dan Schmierer, CEO of Viega America, said that despite the weak economy, the future in plumbing products appears promising, said Dan Schmierer.
"We will do our best to earn your trust, both as an employer and business partner," Schmierer said.
In 2005, Viega acquired McPherson's Vanguard Piping Systems, makers of the PEX products, and Midtec Inc., maker of Manabloc and molded fittings. About the same time, Viega moved its U.S. headquarters from Massachusetts to Wichita.
The decision to break ground in McPherson was helped along by tax incentives from the McPherson City Commission, as well as the McPherson Industrial Development Corporation and the Board of Public Utilities, Schmierer said
McPherson County gave the company a 10-year property tax abatement on the $41.4 million building, County Administrator Rick Witte said.
"The county's very fortunate to have kept the companies here," he said.
Heinz-Bernd Viegener said the cousins' great-grandfather would have been proud of this day. That great-grandfather, Franz Viegener, first produced a brass beer tap in 1899. Business began in a 400-square-foot shed attached to the family home. By 1901 the company was making home plumbing products. It expanded to the U.S. in 1999.