Arlington, Texas — U.S.-based packaging company American Excelsior Co. is investing in new equipment for foam processing at three locations across the country.
Plants in Norwalk, Ohio; West Chicago, Ill.; and, Sheboygan, Wis., will see upgrades, which includes the addition of new machinery.
The investments are part of a $5 million project to expand production in the company's wood fiber and flexible foam divisions.
Company President Terry Sadowski said the coronavirus spurred the company to accelerate investments it planned at the start of 2020.
"When we started the new year, we had an aggressive growth plan," Sadowski said in a statement. "When the pandemic hit, we knew there was going to be an impact on those plans. We thought they would certainly be delayed. Instead, we have accelerated our plan and are moving forward with increasing our manufacturing capacity and warehousing facilities.
"The terrible pandemic has caused some markets to grow while others falter, but we have had the good fortune of seeing stronger market demands for many of our products," he added. "This has caused us to increase our operational production resources."
Increased demand means more work, and Sadowski expects the plant expansions would lead to the addition of 25 to 30 new jobs and some new opportunities for company employees.
Ken Starrett, vice president of sales and marketing, said the company's flexible foam division primarily would benefit from machinery additions. These include a 330-ton die press for polyurethane in West Chicago, and polyethylene laminator and cutter-sheeter at Norwalk. The company's site in Sheboygan also is scheduled for a new PE Laminator.
Starrett declined to give details of suppliers, but promised more investment.
"This is the first phase," he said. "More is expected later. Jobs will be spread across all locations."
Starrett confirmed that the coronavirus pandemic has helped the company, citing growth in all three of the company's divisions: Wood Fiber, Flexible Foam and Erosion Control.
"We had to move up our supply of PU components for the medical sector," he said in a telephone interview.
American Excelsior has been supplying parts for face masks and bracing components, but stepping up those efforts have been difficult, mainly due to the lack of qualified applicants.
"The biggest problem is finding the right people," he said. "Our plant in Texas has been trying to put on a second shift for several months."
Turning to the investments disclosed so far, Starrett said: "We have got more than 400 people in the company. It is good to give them some good news."