WWRD Group Holdings Limited, the company that now owns and operates the Waterford Crystal, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton brands, confirmed this week that it had signed an agreement with Waterford City Council to open a brand new crystal manufacturing facility, retail outlet and visitor centre at The Mall in the heart of Waterford city.
WWRD said it would employ approximately 80-90 full-time staff at the facility of which about 40 would be highly skilled local craftsmen. In addition, a further 30-40 temporary staff would be employed according to seasonal demand. The new facility was scheduled to open in June 2010 and would produce approximately 40,000 hand-crafted high-end pieces using traditional methods. The total site area is 1.5 acres with offices, shop, workshops and some storage.
A spokesperson for WWRD said it was intended to attract back to Waterford the many thousands of visitors that once flocked to the Kilbarry plant. The new operation would be based in the former ESB regional office and its surrounding buildings. The Council would retain ownership of the site, with WWRD responsible for all operational aspects of the venture.
At a press briefing in Dublin, Pierre de Villemejane, chief executive officer of WWRD told The Munster Express the plan was to produce high-end crystal with a sales target of $20m. Presentation pieces for sport and the Hollywood entertainment industry would be created as well as other unique items like eagles and violins. Quality crystal retaining the old 32% lead content would be made again as would €100 glassware such as Lismore stemware in addition to the one-off trophy pieces, said the chief executive officer. Most items made on The Mall would be at an average €250 price point ranging from €100 for classic stemware to €10,000 for special pieces.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the long and distinguished history of crystal manufacturing in Waterford. The incomparable and iconic brand of Waterford Crystal continues to be coveted the world over and it is vital that its heritage of craftsmanship and design remain firmly rooted in Waterford. We are therefore committed to working with Waterford City Council to ensure that crystal manufacturing in Waterford continues uninterrupted from now onwards. We sincerely hope that this will prove to be a crucial step on the road to recovery for the city and the region”, he said.
The chief financial officer, Anthony Jones, said the glass at The Mall would be created in a new furnace sourced in the UK and mouth blown in the old traditional way. Other equipment essential to the process and manufacture would come from France, Germany and Italy. Some plant was purchased from the Receiver from the Kilbarry plant but, for the most part, they were intent on using the latest type of plant work methods and efficiencies. The fit-out of the new showrooms and brand new layout of production, distribution and sales would mean a planned investment of $20m, he confirmed, adding that the new plant would be capable of producing two million tons of molten glass daily if required. It was also revealed that the former design chief, Jim O Leary, would be back on board creating new, fantastic designs. His association with Waterford Crystal went back nearly half a century and he would be on site with blowers, cutters and engravers. Designer tours of US stores had recommenced and more were planned.
Meanwhile, UNITE, the trade union that represented workers at Waterford Crystal welcomed the return of glass manufacturing to the city. Regional organiser, Walter Cullen, said the union would now enter discussions with KPS and WWRD Holdings regarding the staffing of the new facility.
He said the new jobs were welcome in the current economic climate though the hardship caused to the 800 workers, their families and the communitv of Waterford as a result of the closure of Waterford Crystal could not and should not be forgotten. “We will keep our members informed on further developments”, he said.
Better layout for visitors
The layout of the new centre on The Mall will be very modern and functional and will probably suit a better throughput of visitors than in the old plant as they will see the whole process including designers and dispatch. Hot glass will be made on site much to the satisfaction of visitors who were disappointed to come to Waterford and not see it last year. Now the full show is back on again.
The largest collection of crystal in Waterford will be kept there. This will be a new and exciting store that will raise further the image of the brand in Waterford. Another interesting element is the heritage and historical element of Waterford which was not as substantial in the past. This would include some of the original 18th century designs of Waterford Crystal when the glass making tradition first began in the city only to discontinue in the 1850s until 1947 when the Czech assisted rebirth took place.
An additional storage site of 1.5 acres is being sought on the edge of the city for storage, distribution and logistics. A number of potential sites have been viewed.
See The Munster Express newspaper for full story.