Iowa auto parts injection molder Engineered Plastic Components Inc. is investing $3.74 million to set up its first molding plant outside the United States, in Blaenau Gwent, Wales.
The company, headquartered at Grinnell, plans to occupy a 38,000-square-foot plant employing 72. EPC is due to be in production there beginning this month, according to the Welsh Development Agency.
EPC produces parts for Tier 1 automotive suppliers, including interior trim such as door panels and consoles. Customers include UT Automotive and Magna International Inc.
``We chose that area as it is close to our primary customer, Northern Automotive Systems [LLC],'' said EPC's owner, Reza Kargarzadeh. Northern Automotive, based in West Salem, Wis., makes decorative plastic automotive parts, and already has a plant in Gilwern, Wales. The company is a subsidiary of Northern Engraving Corp. of Sparta, Wis.
Kargarzadeh said EPC plans to install a total of eight new injection Ferromatik Milacron presses with up to 1,000 tons of clamping force in the Welsh plant. Five of these have already been delivered.
The company expects the new plant to serve European automakers including Volkswagen AG, BMW, Audi, Volvo and Daimler-Benz AG.
Founded in 1994, EPC has total U.S. sales of about $4.5 million. In addition to injection molding, the company offers structural foam and insert molding. EPC has 15 injection presses at its single Iowa plant — the largest press has 2,500 tons of clamping force.
The firm also molds products for the aerospace, industrial, garden, recreational and medical sectors. Prominent U.S. customers include Boeing Co. and Deere & Co.
The Welsh Development Agency, based at Cardiff, Wales, said EPC was persuaded to move to the principality following discussions with customers in Europe and with other American companies located in Wales.
``We are very pleased that our negotiations with EPC have resulted in the choice of a Valleys location for a plant which will ultimately seek to supply customers throughout Europe,'' said WDA Chief Executive Officer Brian Willot.
``EPC will add new skills and know-how to an important part of the Welsh economic base. Its selection of South Wales is a significant testimonial to the competitiveness of local skills and infrastructure.''
He added that the automotive market already is Wales' largest manufacturing sector, supporting 150 companies.
Kargarzadeh did not rule out further expansion, depending on demand for parts, with the possibility of another plant in Europe at a later date.