When Johns Manville got set to begin operations at its brand-new Winder plant in July 1969, The Winder News reported the 340,000-square-foot, fiberglass insulation manufacturing facility was set to be completed that fall.

Eighty thousand square feet would be used for manufacturing space, while the rest would be used as a warehouse and service center for the company’s Southeast operations. It employed 125 people.

Fifty years later, the plant has doubled in size and has over 300 full-time employees and two product lines while operating continuously 24/7.

Officials from the Denver, Colo., headquarters of the 161-year-old company, which manufactures home and building insulation systems, commercial roofing materials and engineered products, were on hand Friday, Sept. 13, at the Winder plant on Bankhead Highway to celebrate years of production there.

“We appreciate everything that everyone has put into this plant over the last 50 years,” Johns Manville CEO/president Mary Rhinehart said. “It is a family here. This is a location, and Johns Manville is a company, where family can work together and support each other.

“When we talk about ‘the JM Experience,’ we talk about employees first. Because in order for them to be able to deliver those positive and powerful experiences to our customers, they have to have those themselves.”

Company officials, employees, retirees and invited community leaders camped under a large tent at the plant Friday to celebrate the plant’s 50th anniversary. They viewed a short video that gave a brief rundown of the plant’s history and featured short snippets of interviews with several employees. After hearing from company and local leaders, the crowd was treated to a catered lunch afterward.

“There have been a lot of changes in the last 50 years, but (the plant) still provides a significant economic impact to Barrow County and supports various community events,” said Tom Miller, the Winder site manager. “I’ve only been here for about six months, but I think the one thing that hasn’t changed over the long-term is the consistent performance, driven by an experienced, skillful and committed workforce.”

Winder mayor David Maynard, who said he was 9 when the plant opened, and Barrow County Chamber of Commerce president Tommy Jennings gave brief comments thanking the company for its “commitment and investment” made in the community.

“Coming from a manufacturing business myself, I understand what goes into it — the metrics, the numbers, the efficiency and how much product you’re delivering, but behind all that are you and your families,” Jennings said. “It makes coming to work better. It makes delivering a quality product better, and it makes your customers feel better. Without you, we wouldn’t be the same here in Barrow County.

“It’s hard work; we understand that. But what you get and what you give are the treasures we will enjoy here in Barrow County for the next 50 years.”

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