Jim Steiner, senior vice president of Corning Specialty Materials, was one of eight U.S. manufacturing leaders who testified before the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee.
According to a press release from Corning, the committee invited the group to speak to kick off a series of hearings called “Our Nation of Builders: Manufacturing in America.”
Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry said Congress needs “to help create an environment where companies already here (in the U.S.) see that it’s worth their while to expand here.”
Steiner’s testimony detailed the renaissance of Corning’s flat glass operation in Harrodsburg as it undertook a massive project in 2007 to produce tough cover glass for Apple’s new iPhone.
Rep. Brett Guthrie, who represents Harrodsburg in the House, introduced Steiner at the start of the hearing and praised Corning as “a great company.”
Guthrie visited the Harrodsburg facility last year to see Gorilla Glass in the making.
In producing the glass for the iPhone, the tight timeframe — delivering high-quality glass within three months of the first request — “appeared to be an impossible task,” Steiner said.
“While we knew we could make the glass, we had never made it to the quality and scale needed to make it commercially viable,” Steiner said.
“The success of Gorilla Glass has had a very positive impact on our plant in Harrodsburg. We had the core manufacturing know-how in the facility. But, we needed new equipment and increased capacity. And, Harrodsburg had to respond at lightning speed to fill the initial order from Apple. Our people in Harrodsburg did an amazing job.”
Today, Steiner noted, Corning Gorilla Glass has formed the cover of more than 1 billion smart devices, and product sales topped $1 billion in 2012.
Steiner described ongoing innovations in Corning® WillowTM Glass, the ultra-slim flexible glass the Harrodsburg plant is also manufacturing in sample quantities as customers do testing and product development.
Through the experience with Gorilla, he said, Corning “learned how to move at a much faster pace to meet the requirements of today’s dynamic industries. This takes a combination of strong technical capabilities, flexible manufacturing, and the willingness of all of us in Corning to move fast and take more risk.”
Corning and other U.S. companies will thrive with public policy that supports innovative manufacturing, Steiner told the congressional panel. Ways that government at all levels can help in this collaborative effort, he said:
- Incentives at the state and local levels
- Strong intellectual property protection