A fledgling automotive supplier, Triad Industries Inc., is opening a plant in a region populated by carmakers, in an attempt to carve out a niche making metal-plated plastic trim parts.
Triad started construction in early July on a 52,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Bowling Green, Ky. The $9.5 million facility, which is scheduled to open in October, will make exterior trim components for Big Three automakers and Japanese transplants.
The company plans to hire 50 people at the plant by year's end and as many as 225 people by the year 2000, said Nick Vandagriff, Triad's chief executive officer. Triad will add another 40,000 square feet by 1999, at a cost of an additional $2 million.
The company, formed by a group of outside investors, makes decorative, plated exterior trim parts, a component that the company believes is on the cusp of major growth. The parts mainly are used for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles as a stylized substitute for uncovered trim pieces.
The components can be used virtually anywhere on a vehicle exterior, including mirrors, lighting systems, grille surrounds and wheel trim, Vandagriff said.
Initially, the plant will focus on electroplating, a process that uses an electromagnetic field to adhere plates made of copper, nickel or chrome to a plastic substrate. The company will set up an electroplating line containing a series of 100 tanks housing the trim components.
Initially, the substrates will be purchased from outside suppliers, Vandagriff said.
However, the plant's second phase will include adding several injection molding presses to make the substrates, which typically are formed from an ABS material or composites, and a decorative painting line. The company has not determined how many presses it will buy, Vandagriff said.
The Triad site is centrally located in a region of the country — which includes Kentucky, Tennessee, southern Ohio and eastern Indiana — dotted with plants operated by both automakers and major suppliers.
``The area provides a real logistics advantage for chrome-plating,'' he said. ``In general, we're becoming part of auto alley. We'll bring a considerable degree of specialized processes and equipment to take advantage of a trend toward decorative chrome plating.''
Besides the geographic benefits, Triad is receiving $2.3 million in tax credits from the state of Kentucky, said Joseph Lilly, spokesman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development in Frankfort. The incentives package is spread over a 10-year period and allows Triad to take a state income-tax credit or have fewer taxes deducted from company wages, Lilly said.
The company also is installing specializing equipment to lessen hazardous wastes and pollutants, a potential byproduct of the electroplating process. The equipment includes a waste-water treatment system and specially designed air scrubbers.
Excepting himself, Vandagriff did not disclose the names of the investors in the privately held company. Vandagriff said he is a former executive with an engine parts manufacturing company.
Other executives with the start-up firm include Joseph Arnold, vice president of operations, and Richard Ferrando, vice president of sales. The executives currently are working from rented offices in the Bowling Green area.
Triad's name is derived from the three processes involved in making the trim parts: plating, molding and decorative work, such as painting. Vandagriff did not disclose targeted sales volumes.