Toray Plastics America Inc. said it will spend $100 million to expand its Rhode Island headquarters plant, adding a film line and 50 new jobs to boost output of its Lumirror polyester film used in videotapes and audio tapes, floppy disks and other markets. The polyester line will be the third at the North Kingstown plant. The facility also has two polypropylene film lines, said Harvey Greenhalgh, human resources director.
The polyester line will begin operating in April 1997. It will boost Toray's polyester film capacity to 48 million pounds per year from the current 40 million pounds. Information on the machinery supplier was not available.
One competitor, who asked not to be identified, questioned whether Toray will follow through on the project, even though film converters have complained in recent months about short supplies of polyes-ter film.
``Is there a shortage of polyester film now? Yes there is. Does the industry need capacity? Yes,'' he said. But he added that several other polyester film suppliers already have initiated expansion projects, largely through upgrades on existing lines.
Toray's chief U.S. competitors in polyester film markets for video and audio tape are DuPont Films and ICI Films, both in Wilmington, Del.
Toray serves customers including Sony and Fuji from its North Kingstown plant, Greenhalgh said.
``There is demand for polyester film right now,'' he said.
Toray's expansion - the exact size was not available - will create 400 construction jobs. The factory and construction positions were big news in Rhode Island, which has struggled to retain manufacturing. Toray employs more than 500 people.
Gov. Lincoln Almond and the Toray board of directors visited the North Kingstown plant March 22 to announce the expansion.
Toray is one of the largest plastics manufacturers in the state. Its polyester film also is used in computer memory tape and industry markets such as hot stamping, pressure-sensitive tape, printer applications, metalizing, coating, laminating, packaging and electronics.
Toray Plastics America is a unit of Tokyo-based Toray Industries Inc., a major supplier of synthetic fibers and textiles, high-performance films and engineered plastics.