A new company called Lico U.S. has invested $10 million in a manufacturing plant and distribution facility in Neenah, Wis., that is being billed as a pioneer place of production for rigid PVC flooring.
The headquarters of the C-corporation created by Swiss-based Li & Co. AG and Neenah-based Acoustic Ceiling Products LLC (ACP) will open with one extrusion and milling line but plans call for adding two more as volume justifies, ACP President Rob Rebman told Plastics News in an email.
"It will be a pioneer in the sense that Lico U.S. will be the first and only domestic manufacturer. All other rigid PVC flooring is manufactured in Asia," Rebman said. "Advantages to U.S. manufacturing processes include better lead times, avoiding tariffs, Swiss quality and technology, and that it is made in the U.S."
On Sept. 24, the federal government imposed a tariff of 10 percent on certain flooring products imported to the U.S. from China. The tariffs, which take aim at rigid core flooring, luxury vinyl tile and engineered-wood products, are scheduled to increase to 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2019, and lead to higher prices for consumers.
Rigid PVC flooring is considered a step up in production from luxury vinyl tile, which is currently made in the U.S. at various sites.
Privately held and in business for 25 years, ACP manufactures and distributes decorative backsplash, ceiling and wall products for residential and commercial customers made from vinyl, ABS and various thermoplastics. Rebman said expanding the product offering with flooring was "the obvious next step."
Lico will begin operations with two facilities, including 98,000 square feet of manufacturing and distribution space and 130,000 square feet of sales and inventory space. Equipment for the manufacturing plant is scheduled to arrive in February 2019, Rebman said.
Lico will hire 16 full-time employees to cover three shifts on the manufacturing line while current ACP staff will take on sales, marketing and accounting, Rebman said.
The manufacturing crews will produce made-to-order flooring for customers in North America as well as a brand of Li & Co. flooring called Hydro Fix Comfort Core, which is extruded from a patented seven-layer, heat-infused process that results in a product that mimics the look of wood.
Li & Co. says the high-temperature melding process eliminates the need for hot-press glues as it integrates the rigid PVC core board into a multilayered homogeneous board. The seven layers include a polyurethane coating "scratch shield," wear and comfort layers, patented rigid core board, a bonding layer, and an acoustic underlay of extruded polystyrene that reduces noise and resists mold.
The flooring composition gives Hydro Fix dimensional stability while making it waterproof, lightweight and safe with no plasticizers, phthalates or formaldehyde used, according to Li & Co.
Founded in 1989, the privately held company is based in Mustair, Switzerland, and makes 13 kinds of flooring lines that Lico U.S. will sell and service. Rebman said Hydro Fix Comfort Core, which already is manufactured in Europe, will make its North American debut at The International Surface Event in Las Vegas on January 22-25, 2019.
"Lico's stellar flooring brands will complement our backsplash, ceiling and wall coverings to help our customers enhance every surface of their homes." Rebman said, adding that he expects Hydro Fix to do well in the residential and multifamily markets.
ACP has been focused on growing its product lines in the recent years. The company introduced vinyl panels called DumaWall in January and last year started offering garage handles, hinges and accents that look like wrought iron but are injection molded from ABS.