Borden sees expansion on horizon for Corning

March 04, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

Borden sees expansion on horizon for Corning

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The sale of the housewares division of Corning Inc. is part of a plan to focus more attention on the company's lesser-known but more profitable high-technology products, a corporate spokeswoman said Tuesday.

For Borden Inc., buying part of Corning, including two plants in the Tri-State area, is an opportunity to expand into a new area by acquiring a well-known brand name.

Borden started out in 1857 as a maker of condensed milk and expanded into other dairy products. For years the name Borden represented wholesome milk with "Elsie the Cow" as a trademark.


The company sold its dairy interests in 1996, according to Lynn Anderson, Borden manager of corporate communications. It still licenses the Borden name to a dairy cooperative, she said.

In the 1980s, Borden ventured into other products such as pastas, pasta sauces and other foods, she said.

What the $603 million purchase of Corning's consumer products division will mean to Corning's plants in Martinsburg, W.Va., where the cookware is manufactured, and Greencastle, Pa., a distribution center, in the long-term is unknown, Anderson said.

No layoffs are expected for now and it is possible the plants could expand as the company considers adding more product lines under the well-known brands, Anderson said.

The purchase of Corning's consumer products division, which includes Visions and Pyrex cookware, is not like takeovers in the 1980s where corporate entities bought up companies and then closed factories, she said.

Borden is keeping Corning's consumer products division management team in place and decisions will be left to its members, Anderson said.

The cookware division will be run as a separate entity under the Borden corporate umbrella, Anderson said.

Meanwhile, the sale will give Corning money to invest in its higher-growth technology divisions, said corporate spokeswoman Monica Ott.

Corning employs about 20,000 internationally, including about 3,500 in the consumer products division, Ott said.

Corning was founded in 1851 as a glass business by Amory Houghton, Ott said. The public probably best knows the company for its houseware products, but it has always been a leader in innovative use of glass, Ott said.

In 1880, Corning manufactured the glass bulbs for Thomas Edison's light bulbs, Ott said.

In 1908, the company opened one of the first industrial research labs in the country, the same year that Corning invented glass for use in railroad signals.

A Corning scientist came up with the cross of optical and heat-resistant properties for railroad signals and also came up with the red, yellow and green lights used on all traffic signals, she said.

Corning makes glass fiber optic cable, liquid crystal displays for flat screens on laptop computers and a high-purity fused silica.

Corning also manufactures an ultra pure glass; instruments made with the glass are so precise that they could print 250 lines of information in a space the width of a human hair, she said.

The company got into houseware products by accident when a scientist developed a glass capable of withstanding sudden jolts of heat and cold in 1912, Ott said.

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