Buckeye's $100 Million North Carolina Plant
to Feature Industry Benchmark Technologies
Industry-benchmark manufacturing technology and a recent acquisition are two of the keys behind the recent announcement of Buckeye Technologies' (www.bkitech.com) new US$100 million, 230-job plant, which will be located between Stanley and Mt. Holly, N.C., some 15 miles (24 km.) from Charlotte.
Said Buckeye Chairman Bob Cannon, "We are particularly pleased to locate this important operation in Gaston County. North Carolina Gov. Hunt and other state, county, and local authorities have been of enormous help in bringing this project to fruition.
"We greatly appreciate their enthusiastic involvement," Cannon continued. "North Carolina is a great place to do business."
"We work hard in this state to maintain a business climate where companies can grow and expand," said North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt. "I am so pleased that Buckeye Technologies is deepening its commitment to our state by locating a new project in Gaston County. This facility will bring new technology to our workplaces and new jobs to our working families."
Despite the location project's total price tag of $100 million, the lion's share of the spending on the new site will go not into the facility, but into new technology that will set a standard in the non-wovens industry, company officials explained.
In fact, the new Buckeye Technologies facility in North Carolina will house the world's largest airlaid non-wovens machine. The new machine will have an annual capacity of 55,000 tons (50,000 metric tons) -- roughly three times the capacity of existing machines in the airlaid non-wovens sector.
Buckeye entered the non-wovens business only two and a half years ago, focusing on manufacturing materials for use in feminine hygiene pads, diapers, adult incontinence products, baby wipes, and disposable tablecloths and napkins. In those 30 months, though, Buckeye has established itself as the world's leading producer of airlaid products, according to company officials.
"The new machine [at the North Carolina plant] will increase our annual capacity to approximately 135,000 tons (148.5 metric tons) and will allow us to accommodate the rapid growth in demand for existing and new applications," Cannon explained. "Importantly, this giant machine is designed to produce a new generation of proprietary products, thus delivering innovation as well as economies of scale to our customers."
Buckeye's heavy capital investment in cutting-edge technology at its new North Carolina plant will also provide a considerable productivity payoff, the company chairman added. "It will be a very cost-effective operation, since a large machine can be operated by about the same number of people as a smaller one," Cannon explained.
The new Buckeye location was previously a facility that was utilized by Walkisoft, the non-wovens division of UPM-Kymmene. Buckeye completed its acquisition of Walkisoft on Oct. 1, 1999. A facility in Steinfurt, Germany, was also part of the Walkisoft buy.
The U.S. facility that Buckeye secured from the Walkisoft acquisition is enabling the company to begin its North Carolina expansion immediately. Production at the expanded plant is scheduled to go online in the third quarter of 2001, according to Buckeye officials.
Buckeye Technologies has three other plants located in North Carolina. The Gaston County operation, though, is the first in North Carolina that's part of the company's non-wovens business. In addition to the acquired operations in North Carolina and Germany, other manufacturing facilities in the real estate portfolio for Buckeye's non-wovens sector include plants in Cork, Ireland; Delta, British Columbia, Canada; Memphis, Tenn. (the site of a pilot plant, plus Buckeye Technologies' headquarters and a non-wovens research center). Buckeye Technologies' non-wovens business also includes a technical group in Finland and a number of sales offices located in North America, Europe and the Far East.
In addition to thanking state, county, and local economic development authorities for their help in the new location, Buckeye Technologies' Chairman Cannon also cited the assistance of CSX Transportation (CSXT at www.csxt.com). CSXT will annually transport some 800 railcars loaded with pulp to the North Carolina plant.
"Buckeye distributes its specialty cellulose and absorbent products worldwide, which makes reliable and cost-effective transportation services very important to our business," Cannon said.
"The assistance received from CSX Transportation was a critical factor in Buckeye's decision to expand the Gaston plant," added Donny Hicks, executive director of the Gaston Country Economic Development Commission (www.gaston.org). "The rail service commitment helped to create one of the most significant manufacturing expansions in North Carolina during the 1990s." Said David Hemphill, CSXT assistant vice president for industrial and economic development, "We are committed to partnering with state and county economic development officials to increase industrial development along our rail lines."
The company's industrial development program has helped some 500 firms locate and expand facilities along CSXT rail lines, according to company officials. Since 1994, the company has supported some $10 billion in industrial development projects that have created more than 28,000 jobs, CSXT officials explained.
CSXT also has a substantial presence in North Carolina, where its work force totals some 1,400 employees.
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