Igus Inc. is investing $200 million into a 707,000-square-foot, carbon-neutral expansion in East Providence, R.I., that is expected to create 150 new jobs to manufacture self-lubricating plastic products such as cables, ball bearings, screws and nuts.
The subsidiary of Cologne, Germany-based Igus GmbH produces so-called "motion plastics" with Igus brand polymer blends, which are composed of base materials for wear resistance, reinforcing fibers for strength and lubricants to eliminate the need for external oil and grease.
Igus' website says it serves 188,000 companies in 80 countries in the automotive, packaging, rail, agriculture, machine tool, construction and renewable energy markets with a wide range of bearings, gears, screws and products — some food grade — that can withstand friction, high temperature, high loads and UV light.
The company reported sales of $961 million in 2021, representing 32 percent growth over the prior year with much of the boost coming from online catalog sales of more than 80,000 items kept in stock. At least 25 percent of those products shipped within 24 hours.
"This is triggered by high customer demand in North America and ambitious growth plans," Igus President and CEO Artur Peplinski said in an email.
To that end, Igus received local planning board approval for its expansion in the Rumford section of the city. The expansion will happen in four phases with construction of 148,975 square feet for injection molding and associated support spaces expected to begin in 2023.
Igus has been on a similar trajectory as the parent company with $158 million in 2021 sales, Peplinski added.
The Rhode Island expansion will span a decade — possibly 15 years — and result in a carbon-neutral facility that has solar panels generating electricity, a stormwater recycling system, outdoor lighting that is "dark skies compliant" and a lot of trees and plants, Peplinski said.
The plan to operate as a carbon-neutral plant will take time, he added.
"In the early phase of the planning we are not able yet to determine how much power the solar panels will provide and we are looking into other features as well like green facades, geothermal heating and others," Peplinski said.
Igus currently has a site about a mile away, where it employs almost 400 people. The company will invest in facility upgrades there, too.
"This is where we are investing into injection molding operations currently to meet the rising demand," Peplinksi said. "The additional space that we are planning ... is meant for stocking and assembly currently."
While Igus plans to add 150 jobs as the development is phased in, local officials said the company's expansion plan already is creating other jobs for the community.
Another business, Nexans, an Igus supplier, has moved to East Providence to be closer to its customer, according to Mayor Bob DaSilva.
"We're very excited about it," DaSilva told The Boston Globe.
Founded in 1964 by Günter Blasé in his Cologne garage, Igus has seen major growth since 1985, when it had 40 employees, through this year, when it has 4,500 employees at its head office and 35 subsidiary companies.
The U.S. subsidiary was founded in 1985.