M&G Group is expecting big things from its new PET technology center.
M&G formally opened the 42,000-square-foot center with a dedication ceremony Oct. 16 in Sharon Center, about 15 miles west of Akron.
``PET is a difficult, very competitive environment, so you need a place like this in order to compete,'' Guido Ghisolfi, M&G operations and technology vice president, said at the ceremony. ``We're counting on our [research and development] labs to support us for years to come.''
The new center includes testing equipment, pilot-scale lines and preform- and bottle-making machinery to try out new products.
The total cost of refurbishing the industrial park site and installing new machinery was $4.6 million. M&G is receiving a 55 percent tax abatement on the project from the state of Ohio for the next seven years.
The company currently employs 46 at the site and expects to add 10 jobs there during the next five years.
M&G looked at sites in North Carolina and West Virginia for the tech center before deciding on Sharon Center. Ghisolfi said the ``polymer culture'' of the area, including the polymer science program at the University of Akron, played a role in M&G's decision. Tech center director Delane Richardson pointed out that the high number of plastics firms in the area makes it easier to find trained employees.
The lab's current projects include efforts to improve barrier properties for oxygen, carbon dioxide and ultraviolet light, Ghisolfi said. M&G researchers also are working on new monolayer barriers.
The lab will work in conjunction with a tech center M&G opened earlier this year in Rivalta, Italy.
M&G's North American R&D lab had been on the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. campus in Akron. Goodyear opened the lab in 1966, and it remained there when Goodyear sold its polyester business to Shell Chemical Co. in 1992. Shell then sold the business to M&G in 2000.
M&G, a family-owned firm in Tortona, Italy, had been a major player in the European PET preform and film market, but rapidly became a force in PET resin through the Shell acquisition and its purchase of Rhodia-ster SA of Brazil earlier this year.
The company now ranks second in global PET capacity with 2.6 billion pounds at its disposal.
Ghisolfi said M&G's new, PET plant, with 600 million pounds per year of capacity, is set to open in the first quarter of 2003 in Altam¡ra, Mexico. The company's other North American PET plant is in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
PET growth in 2003 could continue to come from the vibrant bottled water market, but he added that juices and specialty drinks could be ``a big surprise.''
``It used to be just Gatorade and iced tea,'' he said. ``But now there are many, many vitamin-enhanced drinks and other sports drinks competing in that market.''