Plastic furniture maker Poly-Wood LLC is investing $42.8 million in a new manufacturing and recycling facility at its Indiana headquarters, a continuation of recent growth for the company.
The Syracuse, Ind.-based firm plans to open the facility in fall 2021, with an additional 30 extrusion lines and one recycling line, at its headquarters campus, according to a Nov. 19 news release from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Poly-Wood uses recycled high density polyethylene to make its signature line of Adirondack chairs and other outdoor furniture and has been growing steadily in recent years.
CEO Doug Rassi said in a Nov. 23 email that the latest expansion is the execution of the company's long-term planning.
"The expansion is a continuation of Poly-Wood's strategic plan," he said. "When we conclude this phase of expansion in the next 12 months, Poly-Wood will be operating out of 1.6 million square feet of manufacturing space in Indiana and North Carolina with over 1,000 employees."
He said plans also are underway to expand the facility in Roxboro, N.C.
In 2018, it first announced a $35 million investment in a new manufacturing and recycling plant in North Carolina, after recapitalizing with two Indiana-based investment firms in 2015.
The company employs 600 in Indiana and 775 nationwide. The furniture maker added 157 jobs this year and expects to create another 95 by 2023 with the new 369,000-square-foot plant, IEDC said. It said the investments in the new plant would take place over five years.
In 2018, the company told Plastics News it had 15 extrusion lines at its Indiana factory and planned 20 lines for the North Carolina plant.
Poly-Wood said it recycles 400,000 HDPE milk jugs a day to make its furniture and said on its website that it was started in 1990 in a garage in Syracuse by Doug Rassi and Mark Phillabaum, who saw that the growth of government recycling programs was creating a source of raw materials.
Rassi said the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated home furnishing buying. A Nov. 9 update on its website noted an "overwhelming increase" in demand and longer lead times filling orders.
"One of the unexpected outcomes of the pandemic included home furnishings purchased online at record levels," Rassi said. "This has already been a trend for years and the pandemic most definitely accelerated what has been happening all along."
He said adjusting to the pandemic has been a challenge for the company, and he noted that the firm has put a lot of effort into ensuring safe work environments, supporting working from home and increasing wages for production staff.
IEDC offered the company $2.5 million in conditional tax credits based on creating up to 252 jobs by the end of 2023, and another $200,000 in tax credits based on the company meeting planned capital investment targets in the state.
The company sells its products both online and through retailers such as Target and Home Depot.
Poly-Wood's website notes that the company works with local government recycling programs near its factories and makes a model of its Adirondack chairs from "oceanbound" plastic. It said it plans to source 1 million pounds of oceanbound plastic by 2021.
Rassi said he supported work of groups like the Plastic Bank, a nongovernmental organization that aids waste collectors in developing countries, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to make the use of plastics more circular.
He argued that U.S. consumers had been source separating plastic by type 30 years ago, but he said that moving away from that — and toward mixing plastic and other waste and then sending that to Asia — set back development of recycling in the U.S.
"Dumping plastic in Asia and other countries is not only an ecological disaster but it also has undermined capital investment in true recycling solutions here in America," Rassi said. "As it's turned out commingling plastic and other waste shipped to Asia changed the course and put us decades behind where we could have been today. Can we get back on a path to recycling the easy to recycle plastics? I believe we can."