Associated Packaging Enterprises Inc., a Canadian thermoformer, is converting a former Lowe's home center store into a factory in Waynesville, N.C. The firm makes food containers and trays for frozen dinners. The plant, expected to employ 50 when production begins in October or November, will give a much-needed employment boost to the area. Waynesville is in the far western corner of North Carolina, near the Great Smoky Mountains and several national parks.
We have a lot of seasonal employment here and that's why we're striving to get good, year-round jobs,'' said Leon Turner, executive director of the Haywood County Economic Development Commission.
Fueled by tourist spending, unemployment is only 4 percent in the summer. But during winter, the rate hits double digits.
The new plant will enable Associated Packaging of Kitchener, Ontario, to double its current US$30 million in annual sales, said Sandy Worry, company controller. Installation of the Waynesville plant's first thermoforming line is scheduled for mid-September, she said. The company will add a second line by January.
Within two years, the plant should house five lines and employ about 80, she said. Production workers will earn about $8-$14 an hour.
The thermoforming company expanded to North Carolina to meet growth and get closer to U.S. customers, Worry said.
In Kitchener, Associated Packaging employs 110 running 10 production lines. No information was available on the dollar amount of the investment or the type of thermoforming machines the company will purchase.
The company is converting two former Lowe's buildings, with a total of 78,000 square feet, for manufacturing and warehousing. Although locating a factory in a former retail space is unusual, Worry said the process is going smoothly.
The North Carolina Department of Economic Development linked company and town when Associated Packaging officials called looking for sites. The building had become available when Lowe's moved to a new ``superstore'' in town.
That turned out to be the key to luring Associated Packaging, according to Turner. About 80 percent of new employers want to buy an existing facility, rather than build a new one, he said. And this area just does not have existing buildings,'' he said.