JAPAN’S KURARAY EXPANDS PRESENCE IN BLADEN COUNTY WITH LOGISTICS CENTER AT ELIZABETHTOWN
Move Highlights Southeast Region’s Appeal to Foreign Direct Investors
Elizabethtown, N.C. – April 14, 2015. Surging demand for laminated glass used as building materials has led Kuraray America, Inc., to expand its presence in Bladen County to include a 175,000 square-foot logistics center at the Elizabethtown Airport Industrial Park. The company, a unit of Japan’s Kuraray Group, will distribute its SentryGlass product out of the new site, initially employing six workers.
Kuraray’s new logistics center opens less than a year after the company closed on its acquisition of Dupont’s Glass Laminating Solutions/Vinyls (GLS/Vinyls) business. Valued at $543 million, that deal included GLS/Vinyls operations at Dupont’s Fayetteville Works site, as well as plants in West Virginia. Kuraray’s 100-employee Fayetteville Works location, also in Bladen County, manufactures SentryGlass.
The company selected space at Elizabethtown Airport Industrial Park due to its close proximity not just to Fayetteville Works, but also to I-95 – just 30 minutes away, according to Ross Crews, plant manager for Kuraray’s Fayetteville site, “We do a lot of trucking of this material along the East Coast,” Crews says. Demand for SentryGlass, a highly durable material used by architects and construction firms, is growing in eastern states like Florida that are now adopting stricter building codes, Crews says.
In addition to its location, the building’s size and cost fit Kuraray’s needs. “We needed warehouse space that was large enough and that we could move into quickly,” Crews says. His search put him in touch with Chuck Huestess of the Bladen County Economic Development Commission. “Chuck knew where we could find what we were looking for,” Crews says. “And we got the building for a good price.” The new logistics center will employ forklift operators, shipping specialists and fulfillment personnel. The site began receiving shipments of SentryGlass in mid-March. “We’ve already got product going into the building,” Crews says.
SentryGlass can resist hurricane-force winds, bullets, bomb blasts and forced entry. It is also used in transparent railings and pedestrian walkways. Visitors to the Grand Canyon, for example, view the natural wonder from skywalks made of SentryGlass. “This is an advanced building product made and distributed from here in Bladen County,” says Chuck Heustess, executive director of the Bladen County Economic Development Commission. “Kuraray’s Elizabethtown expansion shows the world that we can accommodate an array of 21st Century business operations here – from advanced manufacturing to logistics.”
Kuraray’s expansion in Bladen County is evidence of Southeastern North Carolina’s increasingly global economy. The company’s arrival here follows closely behind the 2013 acquisition of Smithfield Packing, the county’s largest private employer, by China’s Shuanghui Group. “Projects driven by Foreign Direct Investment help us make the case that our region is capable of competing with any destination in the world,” says Steve Yost, president of the Southeastern Partnership. The regional economic development group has beefed up international marketing in recent years. In March, for example, Yost and others attended the Select USA Summit, an annual exposition in Washington, D.C., that showcases the readiness of economic regions for job creation and capital investment by foreign-based firms. “About 25 percent of our project portfolio right now are international companies,” Yost says.
Founded in 1926 in Kurashiki, Japan, Kuraray began investing in the U.S. in the 1980s, opening its first plant here in 1986. Kuraray America, Inc., its Houston-based holding company, now coordinates Kuraray’s U.S. subsidiaries. Its U.S. workforce now totals over 700 employees, according to Deborah Carpenter, a company spokesperson. Two factors account for Kuraray’s recent wave of manufacturing investments in the U.S., including both expansions and acquisitions: competitive energy costs and the availability of quality workers. “Kuraray feels investing in the U.S. is wise because of the shale-gas revolution, as well as the reliable workforce here,” Carpenter says.
Headquartered in Elizabethtown, N.C., The Southeastern Partnership pursues a mission to “provide strong economic development leadership in southeastern North Carolina through innovative marketing and collaborative regional initiatives that will support the creation of new jobs, generate capital investment, and secure new business locations.” For additional information, visit www.ncse.org
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