Next Jobs: Gorilla Glass Gives Corning Muscle

CORNING, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- Smartphones, tablets, HDTVs and the new breed of 3-D TVs dominate wish lists and will go on doing so -- very good news indeed for Corning (GLW), a leading maker of the specialty glass and ceramics that goes on and in each device.

The company is positioning itself to take advantage of the demand by expanding its headquarters and work force -- bucking the bad economy with growth and the creation of jobs.

Samsung Galaxy Tab
Samsung's new Galaxy Tab computer is just one of many new devices using the reinforced but lightweight glass dubbed Gorilla Glass by its maker, Corning.

What jobs: There will likely be commercial and R&D opportunities for engineers. Sample job title: "Gorilla Glass process engineer."

Where to look: Expect hiring in Corning and at a plant in Harrodsburg, Ky.

Why and how: The catalyst for Corning's recent growth is an old product seeing new life. More than 40 years ago, Corning researchers developed Chemcor,once codenamed Project Muscle, a material that could withstand up to 100,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. During testing -- blasted by frozen chickens, in fact -- it survived with nary a scratch.

The product was both a hit and a miss. Though used in the automotive, aviation, and pharmaceutical industries, mass adoption stalled.

Fast-forward to 2006 with the increasing ubiquity of handheld gadgets and manufacturers seeking better, tougher screens for creations that are all too easy to drop and crack. That led to a reimagining of the principles behind Chemcor by Corning researchers. Their work led to the creation of the new Gorilla Glass as an ideal solution.

"Infused with strength at the molecular level," as the company puts it, the thin, scratch-resistant and virtually shatterproof glass is in demand for tablets and big-screen TVs, including new 3-D sets that will likely increase demand even more. Samsung's new Galaxy Tab, for example, uses the reinforced but lightweight glass, as well as some 224 other mobile devices, including products by Dell ( DELL), LG and Motorola ( MOT).

According to Corning's research, the portable computer market is projected to reach annual unit sales of more than 354 million by 2014. "Emerging form factors," such as tablets and mobile Internet devices, could grow at a compound annual growth rate of 40%. Adding to a solid case for Gorilla Glass growth is their estimation that more than 90% of newer form factors will utilize a touch interface.

According to a Corning representative, the company projects doing roughly $250 million in sales of the product this year, nearly three times what sales were last year. The fourth quarter of this year alone is expected to pass the $100 million mark.

The company expects to see significant growth next year, from the growing base of its business as a supplier for hand-helds, notebooks and tablets. Total Gorilla Glass sales next year, the company says, could reach $800 million to $1 billion.

The uptick in business means Corning is on the hunt for talent.

Earlier this year, the company announced a $180 million expansion to its Harrodsburg, Ky., plant to manufacture Gorilla Glass, a move described as creating about 80 jobs. The company expects that if 2011 meets expectations there will be additional commercial and R&D opportunities. Some of the more skilled positions (such as a current search for a "Gorilla Glass process engineer") will be advertised on the company's Twitter feed.

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