A massive new plant in northeast Ohio might provide the key for Plastpro Inc. to unlock the North American composite door market.
Production began earlier this year at the 250,000-square-foot plant in Saybrook Township, near Ashtabula, and an opening ceremony was held June 3. The plant employs 100 and expects to add 50 jobs in the near future. When at full around-the-clock production, the plant will be able to produce 1 million doors annually.
``We came to Ohio because it's the cradle of the fiberglass door industry,'' said Plastpro President Shirley Wang, who helped launch the firm in 1994. ``Workers here are skilled in making fiberglass. Combined with the inherent quality of [sheet molding compound], that makes for a very good product.''
Plastpro is a unit of Taipei, Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group. Plastpro, based in Livingston, N.J., had been importing doors from Taiwan since its inception.
The firm also operates warehouses in Adel, Ga., and Stockton, Calif. Plastpro was spun off from the windows and doors division of Nan Ya Plastics Corp., a sister company of Formosa.
The fully automated plant makes extensive use of robotics and integrated factory control technology; previously, a plant that large would have required a staff of 300 or 400, officials said. One production line is up and running, and a second line - already fully installed - should begin operating later this year.
Doors made at the plant have outer shells made of SMC and are filled with polyurethane foam. The doors then are covered with polyester film and have PVC composite edges. Plastpro's Hydroshield-brand technology makes the doors waterproof on all six sides, Wang said.
Plastpro doors have advantages over wood, which can rot or warp, and steel, which can rust or be dented, said assistant plant manager David Moeller.
``Fiberglass can eliminate most of these problems,'' Moeller said. ``We want to provide the last door a homeowner will need to buy.''
Composite doors currently account for only 10 percent of the North American residential door market, but officials said the field is making inroads against wood and metal. Plastpro is the second-largest composite door maker in North America, with a market share of 20-25 percent, trailing only Therma-Tru Inc. of Maumee, Ohio.
Plastpro's customers include major building suppliers American Building Supply and Stock Building supply, as well as major retailers such as Lowe's and Home Depot. The firm makes more than 80 door designs in a variety of styles.
``Innovation is the name of the game, and this is an innovative, modern facility,'' Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said at the opening ceremony.
Plastpro received numerous state and local financial incentives for the project, including a 10-year tax abatement on part of the plant, new equipment and inventories from Ashtabula County. The firm also received a 70 percent, 10-year tax credit for job creation and $200,000 in state job training grants.
On a voluntary basis, Plastpro will donate about $200,000 annually to local schools, the township and the county, according to Joe Mayernick, executive director of Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County. Plastpro already has announced that it will fund new computer labs at three area high schools. Each of the labs will cost more than $30,000. Plastpro also has made a donation of $25,000 to a local civic development corporation, Mayernick said.
Plastpro purchased the half-completed plant in 2001, when original builder Zehrco Plastics Inc. ran into financial trouble. Plastpro finished the job, with a total investment in the site of $30 million.
Plastpro eventually plans to add a second building to house a compounding operation. No timetable is in place for that project, officials said.