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Asahi Kasei adding compounding in Alabama for rising auto sector

By: Frank Esposito

May 20, 2014

UPDATED: Asahi Kasei Plastics North America plans to build a major compounding plant in Athens, Ala.

The plant will have annual capacity of almost 70 million pounds and will make compounds based on polypropylene, nylon 6/6 and similar materials, primarily for the automotive market. Fowlerville, Mich.-based Asahi Kasei is spending more than $30 million on the new site, which will employ 100 when at full capacity and is expected to open in early 2016.

“This facility will be central to our strategy to increase our presence in the South and provide ongoing support to customers,” Asahi Kasei president John Moyer said in a May 20 news release. “We see Alabama being very central to the strong recovery in the automotive industry and other markets we serve, and are proud that we will be able to be a part of this exciting growth.”

Athens is a city of almost 22,000 located halfway between Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn. Athens also is only about 35 miles west of Huntsville, Ala.

In the release, company officials added that the number of vehicles manufactured in North America is increasing in line with a recovery in the U.S, economy, and that further growth is anticipated as the population increases.

“With increasingly stringent environmental regulations and heightening environmental awareness among consumers, demand growth is particularly strong for plastic compounds that replace metal in automotive components to reduce vehicle weight,” officials said.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley added in the release that his state was an ideal choice for the Asahi Kasei plant because of its location in the heart of the growing Southeastern auto industry corridor and because it has “the best-trained workforce in the nation.”

As part of the project, the city of Athens, Limestone County and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community affairs will provide $1.1 million to upgrade rail spur infrastructure at the 51-acre Elm Industrial park, where the Asahi Kasei plant will be located.

Asahi Kasei already operates a compounding plant in Fowlerville, Mich., that has more than 200 million pounds of annual capacity. The firm is a unit of Tokyo-based Asahi Kasei Corp. and ranks as one of North America’s 30 largest compounders and concentrate makers.