Blue Hawaiian Products Inc. of Largo, Fla., is investing $3 million to add a plant in Rocky Mount, N.C., to manufacture fiberglass-reinforced-plastic swimming pools.
The plant will meet demand from the Northeast, Midwest and central Atlantic regions as well as Canada, said Roger Erdelac, owner and president. Once it begins operating in early 2007, the site ``will take some of the pressure off the Largo plant, which has plenty of business in Florida,'' Georgia, Texas and elsewhere including Europe and the Caribbean, he said.
The company, which does business as Blue Hawaiian Fiberglass Pools, offers 66 models.
Wanting to lower transportation costs, Erdelac started contemplating another site two years ago and explored locations in Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana. In April, a supplier suggested looking in North Carolina.
In early October, Erdelac purchased a vacant, 45,000-square-foot plant and 2,000-square-foot office building on 13½ acres for $900,000.
The firm intends to pour a concrete floor, install air-quality systems for open molding, put in cranes and prepare outdoor areas for mold storage. Improvements and equipment will cost about $2.1 million.
The state's One North Carolina Fund agreed to grant Blue Hawaiian $45,000 for equipment and infrastructure, creating 69 jobs and training workers over three years. Edgecombe County and Carolinas Gateway Partnership Inc. in Rocky Mount each agreed to match the grant.
Blue Hawaiian employs 82 in Largo and initially will have three workers in Rocky Mount. The new site will have 27-30 employees within 18 months, and more than 80 after three years, according to Erdelac.
Larry Humphries is transferring from the Largo facility and will be plant production supervisor in Rocky Mount.
Edgecombe Community College will help provide training.
Nick Williams, Blue Hawaiian's Largo plant operations manager, is accredited through the American Composites Manufacturers Association as a certified composites technician-instructor. He has guided experienced Blue Hawaiian employees - so far, a dozen - in becoming CCTs over three years and has proctored CCT tests for other companies at the Largo facility.
In setting up Rocky Mount, ``the challenge is to give our customers exactly what they have been receiving from the plant in Largo,'' Erdelac said.
Blue Hawaiian had 2005 sales of $9.2 million, and Erdelac projects an increase of 6 percent this year.
Erdelac began building concrete swimming pools in 1974 and eventually sold that business to his sales manager. He familiarized himself with the fiberglass pool market and, in 1984, started making vinyl ester pool shells.
He said the Lakeland, Fla., distribution center of Composites One supplies materials including Cook Composites and Polymers Co. gel coats, AOC LLC's Vipel vinyl ester and Altek unsaturated polyester resins.
Blue Hawaiian's technicians prepare a mold with a pigmented gel coat and a barrier skin coat of chopped-glass fibers using Vipel F010 bisphenol A epoxy vinyl ester.
A hand lay-up bulk laminate of Altek H834 unsaturated polyester is used to impregnate fiberglass chopped-strand mat and woven roving. Combination mat reinforces locations needing extra strength.