Chinese investors have set up a new U.S. company to mold consumer products repatriated from production in China.
Innovate Manufacturing Inc. has chosen Knoxville, Tenn., to be its headquarters. It plans to begin blow molding and injection molding there by mid-September after investing $4.7 million to renovate an existing facility and buy equipment.
Innovate Manufacturing manager Stephanie Trost said there has been a high level interest in the new operation among potential customers since word got out about the company's plans.
“We're getting calls from U.S. companies saying ‘make my products and print ‘Made in the USA' on them,'” Trost said in a phone interview.
Innovate has a contract with PepsiCo Inc. to make Gatorade drink bottles that, among other venues, are used by players in the National Football League. Other contracts have been signed to make hydration bottles for several undisclosed customers, she added. The firm also plans to mold high-end soap dispensers and pet products that affiliates have been molding in China. Other possible products include kitchen items and tools.
Innovate is leasing a 30,000-square-foot building in Knoxville with an option to purchase. The facility will house machinery for injection molding, injection stretch blow molding and extrusion blow molding. Horizontal injection presses will be Toshiba and Haitian models. Presses will include Topstar robots. The operation will be able to perform in-mold decorating, a technology affiliated operations in China have used in molding telephone cases. The U.S. firm's target customers for in-mold labelling will include those with relatively low volumes, a departure from the norm among molders with in-mold capabilities.
U.S.-based Innovate Manufacturing has three principal investors that have manufacturing companies in China.
Leonard Scott Huff is an owner of China-based Innovate Manufacturing Co., which runs four plastics factories and an engineering office in that country. Huff said in a phone interview that he is a U.S. citizen who has been doing business in China for 11 years.
The other principals are David Yang and Jimmy Yin, who also run manufacturing facilities in China. Yang owns Chinese company Jinfeng Industrial (HK) Co. Ltd., which has several subsidiaries, including three plastics companies established between 1996 and 2004.
“By locating closer to our customers, we anticipate more growth as demand for localized manufacturing continues,” noted John Lin, Innovate Manufacturing vice president of engineering, in a news release from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Lin is an MBA graduate from the University of Tennessee.
Trost said the U.S. company's principals began thinking about moving manufacturing to the United States about three years ago. Trost, who was Huff's U.S. banker, began assembling a team to achieve that goal. The team looked at four locations to site the U.S. operation and “Tennessee rolled out the red carpet,” Trost said.
Innovate Manufacturing expects to create 50 jobs in Knoxville.
“The central location, competitive electricity costs and business-friendly policies of East Tennessee helped us make our decision, and we anticipate the manufacturing community here to grow as well,” Lin explained.
Huff said the Knoxville location will be near Eastman Chemical Co.'s technical center in Kingsport, Tenn. His plants in China have used Eastman's Tritan copolyester resin for parts and Innovate Manufacturing will use the material in high-end bottles.
“Onshoring is gaining momentum with the reduction of cost burdens for companies manufacturing their products here in the United States,” stated TDEC commissioner Randy Boyd in a news release. He estimated Tennessee has added nearly 1,300 jobs from China-based projects in the past year.
Supporting Innovate Manufacturing's project are the Tennessee Valley Authority, Lenoir City Utilities Board, the city of Knoxville and its chamber of commerce and TDEC.