A $5.5 million expansion at compounder Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc. will create 10 new jobs and give the Fowlerville, Mich.-based firm its ninth production line.
The new line will produce Asahi Kasei's Leona-brand specialty nylon compounds and Xyron-brand modified polyphenylene ether materials, primarily for applications in the automotive market, which accounts for more than half of the firm's sales.
The line should be running by year's end and is expected to increase Asahi Kasei's annual production in Fowlerville by about 20 million pounds, officials said.
Asahi Kasei's specialty nylons are used as a metal replacement in mirror housings, roof racks and similar uses, President John Moyer said in a March 10 phone interview. The PPE materials have found a home in batteries and large exterior panels.
We need the new line because of an increase in business and to support our growth plan, he said. All of our specialty product lines are running harder now than they were at our peak in 2007.
The 10 jobs being added because of the new line are in skilled trades. Another six jobs are being added in sales, marketing and development. Asahi Kasei currently employs about 160.
After bottoming out at under 10 million vehicles, the U.S. auto market is expected to produce 11 million to 12 million vehicles this year. Asahi Kasei is benefiting from the resurgence in this hard-hit sector.
We're not changing the long-term picture, Moyer said. We think eventually the market could get back to 15 million to 17 million vehicles.
Asahi Kasei also spent $3 million in 2010 to upgrade existing production lines. The firm has annual sales of around $200 million and operates out of a 200,000-square-foot plant. Its largest volume products are polypropylene-based compounds. It ranks as one of North America's largest PP compounders.
After the new line is up, Moyer said Asahi Kasei hopes to add another line for PP compounds in 2012, with production on that line which would be the firm's 10th beginning in 2013.
The firm is a unit of Asahi Kasei Corp. of Tokyo.