Film extruder Toray Plastics America Inc. will undertake an $11.5 million expansion that will create 28 new jobs at its Rhode Island headquarters.
CEO Richard Schloesser and Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced the expansion at an Aug. 24 event at Toray's North Kingstown, R.I., plant.
Schloesser would not give details about the new equipment, but said: “It's going to be a machine that's going to allow us to value-add some of our base films.”
Going forward, Toray will invest in value-added machinery as opposed to more large-scale extrusion lines, Schloesser said in an Aug. 24 telephone interview. That way, Toray can supply the base polypropylene and polyester films from North Kingstown and move metalization or coating lines around the country, near its customers.
With that in mind, Toray is planning a $200 million expansion that could take place either in Rhode Island or at its polyolefin foam plant in Front Royal, Va., with officials from both states competing to win the economic prize.
Toray Plastics America is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Toray Industries Inc. The parent company operates 127 facilities in 18 countries. Its sales are about $13 billion annually and Toray Industries employs 32,000.
The Boston Globe reported Aug. 23 that Rhode Island state Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and House Speaker Gordon Fox were planning a trip to Japan to lobby for Toray to remain in their state, but that plans were not finalized.
The Providence Journal reported that Virginia officials made a trip to Tokyo to present their case earlier this year.
The Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. on Aug. 22 awarded Toray $1 million for a 375-kilowatt solar array at the North Kingstown plant, $250,000 more than a previously approved round of grants.
The award includes a $750,000 grant through the state's Renewable Energy Fund and another $250,000 in federal stimulus funding through the Rhode Island Business Energy Assistance Program.
“Rhode Island is taking concrete steps to help businesses such as Toray, which employs approximately 600 Rhode Islanders, remain competitive through reduction in their utility costs and increased energy efficiency,” Chafee said in an Aug. 23 news release.
During the past 25 years, Toray has made more than $750 million in investments in its U.S. plants. Schloesser said the final decision on where to put the proposed $200 million expansion will be based on projected operating costs.
“What I have told Rhode Island [officials] is this: We have a plant in Virginia, we have 200 acres down there, and [Virginia is a] business-friendly state, so we're going to talk with them about it, yes. But we haven't gotten any offers; there were some articles in the paper that said [Virginia] was trying to ‘steal us away.' That's not true,” he said.
Schloesser said Toray Plastics America also is mindful of its parent company's growth plan, which calls for expanding globally through 2020 via a combination of innovation, scale and “green” business practices.
“Cost structures are going to be extremely important,” he said. “Commodities are not going to be the game.”
He acknowledged that recent moves by Indian film producers Polyplex Corp. Ltd. and Uflex Ltd. to create large-scale film plants in Alabama and Kentucky, respectively, have added to the global pressure on Toray to set itself apart from the competition.