Creative Playthings Ltd., a Framingham, Mass.-based producer of wood swing sets, is investing $3.5 million as part of a plan to expand into plastic lumber products.
Creative's plans include building a plant in Emporia, Va., to make plastic lumber products within three years and expanding an existing 60,000-square-foot facility there that manufactures wood swing sets. The project will create 55 jobs total, according to company officials, who would not break out numbers for the plastics operation.
``We've been looking at ways to combine our wood waste with recycled plastics,'' Fred Definis, vice president of marketing and sales, said in a Nov. 6 telephone interview. ``We're in the initial stages of evaluating [converting] technology.''
The company produces about 12,000 pounds of sawdust and wood shavings a day at its Emporia operation, south of Richmond. Definis said Creative wants to avoid removing the waste from the firm's 40-acre site and putting it in a landfill. About 60 percent of the 60,000 wood swing sets Creative makes annually are produced at Emporia.
The firm incorporates about 1 million pounds of plastic parts a year in those swing sets, which are sold through six company-owned retail stores and major retailers, such as Toys ``R'' Us, Definis said.
``We're a major user of plastic components,'' he said. For that reason, he noted, Creative may set up a companion blow or injection molding operation sometime in the future.
The expansion project involves adding a 75,000-square-foot swing-set manufacturing and warehouse facilty next to the firm's existing plant in Emporia by year-end. Construction of the converting plant for plastic lumber products will follow by 2000, according to Definis.
The company initially plans to manufacture plastic lumber products such as sandbox seats and wall slats for playground sets, Definis said. It hopes eventually to use plastic lumber in its swing sets.
In a prepared statement, Donald Hoffman, president and chief executive officer, cited state and local government support as pivotal to the expansion.
The state provided a $70,000 grant for the project, and the city is required to match that amount, according to a Richmond-based spokeswoman for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Among the assistance the firm has received are site improvements, Definis said.
Privately held Creative, with annual sales of about $20 million, already employs about 50 in Emporia.