Cardinal Glass in Odell expands opportunities

By Drew Myron

Since it opened in 2004, Cardinal Glass in Odell has tripled its staff to nearly 400 employees. Here, Lucy Medina cleans and touches up parts in the assembly process.

Some strive for money. Others for fame. At a factory in Odell, the prize is admiration.

“We are the world’s most admired glass company,” Dave Windsor, plant manager at Cardinal Glass IG, says again and again.

Peppered in conversation, the statement turns to mantra among employees.

In 2004, when Cardinal Glass Industries, a top manufacturer of glass for residential windows and doors, built a factory in the small community of Odell—population 2,250—hopes were high in the Hood River Valley. Job opportunities would increase and the local economy would get a boost.

Guess what? It happened.

In 15 years, Cardinal Glass IG—the IG stands for insulated glass—has tripled its workforce from 120 employees at opening to 380 employees today. With three shifts, the factory runs around the clock. More than 25 delivery trucks leave the Odell lot each day.

It’s not just the workforce that’s growing. A $24 million expansion added more than 70,000 square feet of production space, and the factory has enlarged its footprint from 10 to 15 acres.

“It’s a machine,” Dave says with a smile. “It’s a Cinderella story.”

Headquartered in Minnesota, Cardinal Glass Industries is a leader in producing residential glass for windows and doors, with 37 manufacturing locations and 6,000 employees in the U.S.

Cardinal has a clear vision: to design and fabricate the most advanced residential glass products in the industry. The manufacturing process is complex and the equipment is sophisticated.

Dave Windsor is plant manager for Cardinal Glass. The company produces residential glass for windows and doors, with 37 manufacturing locations and 6,000 employees across the United States.

In short, Cardinal takes raw material and makes glass, then coats, assembles and ships the glass to the nation’s most recognized window providers, such as Jeld-Wen, Ply Gem and Milgard. Founded in 1962, the company has shaped the window market with a list of firsts. Highlights include the introduction of triple-pane insulating glass in 1977, energy-efficient glass coating in 1983, argon gas filling in 1987, easier-to-clean glass in 2006 and a more durable glass with a 20-year warranty in 2014.

The company makes coatings designed to reduce solar heat gain in buildings, decrease dirt accumulation on glass and resist the impact of severe weather events, such as hurricanes. It manufactures spacer systems for double-pane and triple-pane windows, and created films designed to protect glass in transit.

In 2004, Cardinal IG Plant Manager Dave Windsor discovered the Odell site at the urging of his boss, CEO Roger O’Shaughnessy.

Dave searched throughout Oregon for a new location, with specific needs regarding space, location and price. Its window assembly process requires a minimum 600-foot elevation so the finished windows can be used anywhere from sea level to mountain heights.

Though it wasn’t a perfect fit, Dave was about to settle on a location in Sandy. Roger urged him to scour Hood River one more time.

“Roger had been at a conference in Portland,” Dave says. “He and a friend escaped for an afternoon and ended up enjoying a drink in Hood River. He really liked the area.”

Dave made another somewhat exasperated call to the Port of Hood River. He was told there was nothing available, but there was one property that might come up soon.

Dave rushed out to view the longshot: a 12-acre piece of the Lower Hanel Mill site. With its 680-foot elevation above sea level, the location was an ideal match for production requirements needed to prevent breakage during the sealing process for double-pane and triple-pane glass.

Within a year, Cardinal bought and cleared the site, and built the manufacturing facility.

Dave credits Cardinal’s local success to a company culture that emphasizes trust and happiness. For all its sophistication, in many ways Cardinal is based on the basics.

“We operate with a price sheet and a handshake,” Dave says. “It’s a very old- fashioned company. If you’re getting married, do you want a contract? Basically, it’s ‘I trust you and you trust me.’”

Port of Hood River Commissioner David Meriwether has nothing but praise for Cardinal.

“They have always been an excellent corporate citizen in the community,” says David, who was Hood River County administrator when Cardinal moved in. “Right away, I was very impressed. Everything they did was first class. They didn’t cut corners and they’ve always been true to their word. Even during the recession, they kept people employed and they continued to thrive.”

Business is still booming, in large part due to a flush housing market, which creates a need for more employees. The turnover rate at the Odell plant is just 15%. To recruit and maintain staff, Cardinal offers leadership training, education assistance and generous referral bonuses.

From industrial engineers and maintenance workers to drivers, handlers and quality control, Cardinal draws professionals from all over the Columbia River Gorge.

“This area has great people,” Dave says.

When it comes to employment opportunities, rather than lengthy descriptions and a longwinded mission, Cardinal presents Seven Responsibilities.

“That’s all,” Dave says. “And No. 7 is, ‘Have fun.’”

For more information on Cardinal Glass Industries, go to www.cardinalcorp.com or call 541-354-1280. To take a virtual tour, go to www. youtube.com/watch?v=b6ykGCIKByk.