Finnish pigment maker opens 1st US site

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FP-Pigments Oy, a Finland-based producer of specialty pigments used in paints and coatings, paper and board, plastics and printing inks, will open its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Rome, Ga.

The announcement came on June 15, after 21/2 years of initial contact and negotiations between the company and the Rome-Floyd Development Authority.

FP-Pigments plans to move into a facility formerly occupied by Crews Chemicals Inc. Renovations have started on the facility to accommodate FP's equipment.

FP-Pigments' pilot plant, located in Valkeakoski, Finland, opened in 1996. A second plant in Leuna, Germany, opened last August. The new plant in Rome is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2011, either May or June.

The pilot plant in Finland is small-capacity and primarily serves the Finnish and other European markets, Esko Sarkki, president of FP-Pigment's U.S. branch, said in a July 1 telephone interview. The German plant serves the global market, including Asia and South America, along with the North American market prior to the Rome plant's opening.

The facility in Rome now will become the primary supplier for the North American market, as the German plant will reach its production capacity early next year.

Heather Seckman, director of economic development for the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, said in a July 1 telephone interview that FP-Pigments will make a $20 million investment in the community, and receive breaks on property taxes during the next three years. The company also will participate in the Georgia Quick Start program, which provides workforce training, free of charge, to qualifying businesses in the state.

Seckman was first contacted by FP-Pigments in April 2008. She said that at one point, the project was on hold for 18 months when the economy took a dive.

According to Seckman, FP-Pigments was looking to expand into the United States, particularly in the Southeast. The company contacted the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which in turn contacted the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce.

Beyond the opening of the Rome plant next year, Sarkki said there are no plans to open any additional facilities at this time.

Sarkki said that plastics manufacturing currently accounts for about 10 percent of FP's production, a figure he can see expanding in the U.S. market with the opening of the Rome facility.

For plastics, FP-Pigments has developed the FP-500 series of white opacity pigments, according to its website. The pigments have been used in polyolefin films, and PVC pipes and profiles, the website said. Demand for the product is about equal in both the European and North American markets, Sarkki said.

Sarkki said FP-Pigments considered sites in Alabama and Ohio before deciding on Georgia. In choosing a location, the company evaluated criteria including where its customers were located and access to materials.

Rome offered two main advantages for the company, Sarkki said. First, there already was an existing facility that the company could move in to, saving it money and making it easier to get the necessary permits. The other advantage was the facility's close location to the railway.

FP-Pigments began the hiring process by bringing on Gerhard Scherer as plant manager June 14, according to an announcement provided by Sarkki. The company plans to hire about 20 people.

Seckman said FP-Pigments has “truly been a pleasure to work with,” a statement echoed by Sarkki, who said the Rome economic authorities have been “very supportive.”

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