Canadian General-Tower to invest $80 million in Texas plant

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Canadian General-Tower Ltd. Canadian General-Tower Ltd. makes vinyl-coated liners for pools as well as cover stock for cars and other industries.

Canadian General-Tower Ltd. plans to set up a vinyl-coated fabric production plant in Texas and reshore some of its manufacturing from China back to North America.

The Cambridge, Ontario, company said it plans to invest US$80 million in a manufacturing plant in New Braunfels, Texas. The facility would employ 275, the company and government officials forecast in a Jan. 5 news release. The business is named CGT U.S. Ltd.

Canadian General-Tower is a big producer of vinyl-coated fabric in Cambridge, where it employs about 400 in a 470,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and 55,000-square-foot office and design center. Its other production point is CGT Changshu Co. Ltd. in Changshu, China, which runs a 680,000-square-foot factory in eight buildings.

“This new facility will enhance our customer experience by providing an additional source of CGT’s premium vinyl cover stock for our automotive and industrial customers,” stated the company’s CEO Craig Richardson in a Jan. 5 news release.

Canadian General-Tower’s main market is automotive, where its vinyl constructions find use as seat covers. It claims to be the biggest in North America for this niche, as well as for swimming pool liners, its second largest market. School binder covers and various other consumer and industrial uses are also significant outlets.

Canadian General-Tower officials were unavailable to detail how much production will be reshored from China and how its Cambridge plant will be affected.

The company made a serious play for the Asian market in 2006 when it signed a manufacturing agreement with CG-Omnova Decorative Products (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. With explosive growth in automotive markets in China, the firm subsequently decided to set up its own manufacturing plant in Changshu. It has another subsidiary in China, CFT Shanghai Trading Co. Ltd. which handles sales, logistics and design.

Canadian General-Tower also runs a design studio in Bingham Farms, Mich., for automotive, furniture and fashion market development. It had a U.S. production operation in Toledo, Ohio, called Textileather Corp. but closed it in 2009 and sold the property to the city of Toledo in 2014.

The vinyl fabric major qualifies for a $2 million Texas Enterprise Fund grant.

“Thanks to our skilled workforce, low-tax and low-regulation climate, Texas will continue to attract industry leaders like [Canadian General-Tower],” noted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a news release.

Canadian General-Tower’s beginnings date to 1869, when it was founded to make wooden wheels. As automobile production grew in the last century, the company evolved into a producer of rubber-coated fabric to supply that new market. During World War II, rubber shortages forced the company to diversify into vinyl-coated fabrics.

The firm was closely held by the Chaplin family of Cambridge for many decades until it was sold to Holcan Investments of Burlington, Ontario, in 2012. Jim Chaplin, who headed the company for 57 years and was a community business leader and philanthropist, died November 2015 from Parkinson’s disease.