Color concentrates maker Americhem Inc. is making a big move into China, with plans to open a plant there by the end of next year.
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based Americhem also plans to make a decision on a second European site by mid-2004. Plans call for either a new plant or acquiring another concentrates maker, probably in Western Europe.
Americhem opened a sales office in March in Shanghai, and the company's planned Chinese operations may be in that region as well.
``We've had the vision of being a global leader in masterbatch production,'' Americhem President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Juve said in a June 25 interview. ``And this is one of the steps we're taking to ensure that.''
The firm plans on spending between $3 million and $5 million in China to build a plant that will cover between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet. Americhem currently is reviewing eight potential sites in the region, Juve said.
Americhem also recently opened a sales office in Luxembourg to lay the groundwork for the company's second European site. The firm already produces concentrates in Manchester, England. Americhem's European sales are growing at an annual rate of 20-25 percent, primarily from growth in the fibers and injection molding markets, Juve said.
International sales currently make up about 10-15 percent of Americhem's total sales, but that percentage could double in the next two or three years, according to Philip Spanninger, the firm's executive vice president of corporate development and international business.
Spanninger joined Americhem in January after serving on the firm's external advisory board for a decade. He has 30 years of international business experience with TRW Corp., GenCorp., and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. In addition to Spanninger, Americhem recently hired Frank Copa, who has extensive international experience, primarily in Asia, with BFGoodrich Co.
Spanninger said he hopes he and Copa can help steer Americhem through ``cross-cultural issues in understanding foreign business and the ways to do business.''
On the product front, Americhem Chief Operating Officer Rick Mathew said he expects the firm to be more active in the wire and cable area, particularly in the flame-retardant portion of that market. Americhem is developing polyolefin-based concentrates for such uses as overhead cables for data lines and fiberoptics, Mathew said. The new materials should be commercialized by the end of this year.
Americhem operates eight manufacturing sites in the United States and Europe. The firm posted sales of about $150 million in 2002.