Panolam closing South Carolina plant, expanding in Maine

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Panolam Industries International Inc. Panolam Industries International Inc. makes high pressure laminates used in restaurants, hospitals, retail stores and other sites.

Panolam Industries International Inc. is consolidating its high-pressure decorative laminates operations, shutting a plant in Hampton, S.C., and expanding an existing operation in Auburn, Maine.

“We have a very high regard for the state of Maine and the state of South Carolina — both have been good business partners. The Maine facility is much more modern and state of the art. We also have a good-sized resin business there. Moving that would have been impractical so that dictated where we would move,” said Al Kabus, Panolam’s president and CEO, in a telephone interview.

He said the Auburn facility has 650,000 square feet of space and had open capacity, as well as the company’s resin and digital printing businesses. It already has about 300 employees.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development said in a news release that Pioneer Plastics Corp., a subsidiary of Panolam, will invest more than $1.7 million in the Auburn operation, adding 140 jobs in the next two years. Kabus said the jobs should be added by the end of the year.

Kabus said that the company appreciates all the work over the years of its Hampton employees and is working with the state to provide resources for the 230 displaced workers. He said the transition will be completed by the end of the year.

Panolam purchased Pioneer Plastics in 1999 and said it has invested millions of dollars in the Auburn plant. The acquisition allowed the company to move from producing only thermally fused laminate to where it also now makes high-pressure laminates, fiberglass-reinforced laminates and other specialty products. It offers hundreds of colors and styles under brand names including Panolam, Nevamar, Pionite, Pluswood and Conolite.

The company has five other manufacturing plants and five distribution centers in North America. It is headquartered in Shelton, Conn., and is promoting itself as Panolam Surface Systems.

Kabus said that the strength of Panolam is that it offers multi-dimensional surface materials and that it can color-coordinate schemes. The company works with restaurants, hospitals, retail stores and any type of hospitality organizations.

“We’re a dominant supplier to bowling alleys and we do the inside of airplanes, especially where the luggage goes,” he said.