An investment group is looking to restart a former Wellman Inc. polyester fiber plant in Darlington, S.C.
Darlington Development LLC of Darlington and Houston-based ARC Enterprises LLC recently filed an air permit application for the plant — at what's known as the Palmetto site — with the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control. Once the permit is approved, the site should be operational sometime in 2017, officials said in a May 20 news release.
The project is expected to create at least 150 jobs, they said, and “will bring to market a new, low-cost domestic supplier of quality polyester product.”
The facility “is ideally located and was widely known as a plant that consistently produced high-quality products, and was a highly efficient operation,” ARC Enterprises partner Leandro Carboni said in the release. ARC is working with International Process Plants of Hamilton, N.J., on the business plan for the site.
“I am confident that our customer-oriented focus will enable us to deliver the high-quality polyester products and service in demand from the growing domestic customer base,” he added.
The polyester fiber plant — with annual production capacity of 550 million pounds — is being restarted in hopes of finding a buyer. Darlington Development is a unit of IPP, a firm that buys and sells dormant production plants in a variety of industries, including plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and food ingredients.
IPP bought the Darlington site from Wellman in late 2009, about a year after Wellman had closed it.
The 760-acre Darlington site has 1.1 million square feet of covered manufacturing space. In addition to polyester fiber, the plant has 550 million pounds of capacity for PET bottle resin and 250 million pounds of capacity for amorphous PET resin.
But an official involved with the sale said there are no plans to restart resin capacity in Darlington. “That's not in the business plan,” said Dustin Mondell, a spokesman for New York-based financial firm Rothschild Inc. Rothschild is coordinating the investment and sale process.
The site will be able to make both woven and non-woven polyester fiber for medical and other specialty markets, Mondell said. “We feel really good about this project,” he added by phone May 20. “We spent a lot of time working with the state.”
Wellman Advanced Materials of Johnsonville, S.C., includes Wellman's former recycling assets, but is owned by Shanghai-based Shanghai Pret Composites Co. Ltd.