Strongwell Corp. is expanding its polymer concrete production to keep pace with fast-growing markets for telecommunications housings.
The Bristol, Va., company will invest about $4 million to bring polymer concrete production to its facility near Abingdon, Va., currently a producer of pultruded, reinforced thermoset ladder rails. Strongwell expects to start making its Quazite polymer concrete boxes there in early June, according to spokeswoman Anna Lone.
A key Strongwell customer, Verizon Communications Inc. of New York, is installing a massive fiber-optic system along the East Coast and elsewhere in the United States. Those projects and strong demand from other customers are driving growth for the Quazite structures, Lone said in a telephone interview. Her company now makes polymer concrete products in Lenore City, Tenn., and San Jose, Calif.
Lone said Strongwell expects to create at least 65 jobs in the expansion. The Abingdon plant now employs about 53. State agencies will provide $150,000 in grants as well as worker training for the project.
Polymer concrete typically comprises a thermoset polyester resin, aggregate and glass fiber. In addition to telecommunications businesses, Quazite customers include industrial and commercial firms, and architecture and engineering companies.
Lone said Quazite structures are made in heated molds, which will account for a significant portion of Strongwell's investment in the Abingdon plant. The existing facility can accommodate the expansion, said Lone.
Strongwell is owned by John Tickle. It employs about 1,000, including workers in pultrusion plants in Chatfield, Minn., and at its headquarters operation in Bristol. It claims to be the world's largest producer of pultruded ladder side rails and the biggest North American maker of precast polymer concrete, although Lone said officials with the private firm do not provide sales figures.