Foxworth-Galbraith reopens truss plant thanks to improving housing market
PRESCOTT VALLEY - A rebounding housing market prompted Foxworth-Galbraith to reopen a truss plant that it shuttered in February 2009.
Foxworth-Galbraith resumed production at its truss plant July 1 at 11540 E. Santa Fe Loop Road, said Joe Lorenc, general manager at the lumberyard on Sixth Street in Prescott.
Trusses are support structures for floors and roofs for sheds, garages, dwellings and commercial buildings. A truss can contain as many as 20 to 30 pieces of lumber and be 8 to 50 feet long, depending on complexity, Lorenc explained.
The truss plant hired six employees to work an eight-hour, daytime shift weekdays, but the work force will grow to meet market needs, Lorenc said.
"Initially, we are going to be around the level of six to 10 (employees)," he said.
Lorenc (pronounced "Lawrence") said he expects the plant to average a production load of five to 10 homes to start. The company will ship the finished trusses to its Prescott lumberyard for sale to builders and framers in the greater Prescott area, the Verde Valley and beyond.
Lorenc, a 17-year veteran of Foxworth-Galbraith, said reopening the plant took four months and involved a "fairly sizable investment," adding he had to do some "major maintenance" for the 20,000-square-foot building.
Foxworth-Galbraith brought in a cyber saw and two forklifts, replaced electrical motors and will bring in a semi-tractor and two trailers, Lorenc said.
He said Foxworth-Galbraith hired former employees, including those who lost their jobs, to work at the plant.
Former employee Pete Mancha of Humboldt said he returned two weeks ago after working for a competitor because Foxworth-Galbraith is a "a way better company. It's more modernized."
Mancha said he is responsible for running the presses, which press metal plates on both sides of a piece of lumber to attach it to another piece of lumber to form a truss.
Mancha's return contrasts with a slowdown in the housing industry that prompted Foxworth-Galbraith to mothball the plant in February 2009. The company bought the land in 1997.
Ted Galbraith, executive vice president of Foxworth-Galbraith at corporate headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Plano, told the Courier at the time that the company offered severance packages to the remaining 19 employees.
"You could say this is not just a local challenge," he said. "It's a national challenge in my opinion. Congress needs to address the deterioration of home values before consumer confidence will be restored."
The plant peaked during the housing boom with 160 employees a few years earlier.
The plant probably handled production for 30 or more homes a week during the peak, Lorenc said. After closing the plant, Foxworth-Galbraith relied on its Gilbert plant to supply lumber for the Prescott store.
Foxworth-Galbraith also shrunk nationwide during the housing bust, according to Jack Foxworth, president and chief executive officer for the company.
Foxworth-Galbraith peaked with 2,800 employees, and operated out of 70 locations as of 2006, he said
during a visit Wednesday. It is down to 25 locations with 550 employees.
"We are growing again, which is the best news," said Foxworth, who started with the company in 1981 by creating original point-of-sale computer systems that kept track of inventory. The Foxworth and Galbraith families created the company in 1901.
Foxworth is bullish on the housing market in the quad-city area. The plant is located in Prescott Valley, which issued 240 permits for single-family homes in the 2012-13 fiscal year ending June 30, triple the number that the Community Development Department issued during the previous fiscal year.
"We hope to be part of the recovery of this market," Foxworth said. "This community has grown so much, and it will continue to grow."
The restart of the plant comes about three or four years after Ballard Truss set up shop in Mayer off Highway 69.
"That's fine," said Ballard part owner Charlie Ballard, reached at his office in Eloy. "We've always competed with them.
"The economy is bouncing back," Ballard said. "That bodes well for us."