Georg Fischer Central Plastics LLC (GFCP) closed its manufacturing operation for pipe components in Abbeville, S.C., on Sept. 15, putting 17 employees out of work and a 21-acre complex with a rail spur back on the rental market.
The plant was acquired by Swiss industrial firm Georg Fischer AG in May 2012 along with a related facility in Dallas. Both had been owned by Independent Pipe Products Inc. (IPP) and were folded into the division of GF Piping Systems.
The extrusion and production equipment used in Abbeville to make polyethylene pipe components for water infrastructure will be moved to Dallas to “strengthen our capabilities in this key geographic region,” according to a Sept. 15 letter to customers from Mike Hawkins, GFCP vice president for sales and marketing.
The Dallas location makes similar PE piping components, also for large water distribution applications. The products have diameters up to 63 inches and are in big demand regionally as well as the global market.
Sales have been so strong for GF Piping Systems — increasing 12 percent in the first half of 2014 to 742 million Swiss franks ($793.7 million) — that the division became Fischer's largest for the first time. The company's other business divisions are GF Automotive and GF Machining Solutions.
In addition to relocating equipment from Abbeville to Dallas, GFCP will consolidate engineering, laboratory and research and development services there. The move will also improve inventory management and shipping as well as facilitate the transition of the pipe and fabrication unit into an ISO9001 production program, Hawkins told customers.
The 17 laid-off workers will meet with three potential new employers on Tuesday, Abbeville County Development Services Director Steve Bowles said in a telephone interview. He expects most will be offered jobs.
“They are tried-and-true employees with good skills and a strong work ethic,” he said.
County officials are disappointed the plant has closed but they understand that businesses have to do what is right for their operations, Bowles said. He described the facility as a satellite plant established five years ago by IPP, which had its headquarters at the Dallas site.
“They had a great deal of extra capacity space in Dallas/Fort Worth, and they saw an efficiency of scale by bringing the equipment to that location,” Bowles said of GFCP.
He is getting ready to market the Abbeville complex in search of the next tenant.
“The site is available with a rail spur and four silos in place. It's ready for another plastics company,” Bowles said. “It was designed as a plastics plant. It was a Chevron-Phillips plant prior to Independent Pipe. It can handle whatever plastic need there might be. One of the buildings is relatively new — only about three years old — and the rest were built probably back in the 1960s.”
Founded in 1802, Georg Fischer AG has facilities in 32 countries. The corporation employs about 14,000 people and generated sales of about 3.77 billion Swiss franks ($4 billion) in 2013.