PVC fence pioneer Nebraska Plastics Inc. will invest more than $1 million to open its first fence plant outside of company headquarters in Cozad, Neb., with a 52,000-square-foot extrusion factory in Edenton, N.C.
The company invented vinyl fencing in 1978 under the Country Estate Fence brand, which it still uses today.
Paul German, president and CEO of Nebraska Plastics, said the company is moving into an existing building in North Carolina and outfitting it with infrastructure to extrude vinyl fence and railing.
"The opportunity to produce Country Estate vinyl products in Edenton gives us a unique advantage to supply our growing demand on the East Coast by producing products closer to our customers," German said.
Running two locations will allow Nebraska Plastics to improve customer service and reduce freight costs, he said.
Nebraska Fence plans to hire 22 people for the new factory. The company hopes to begin production in Edenton in early summer, German said.
The One North Carolina Fund is making a $60,000 performance-based grant to help facilitate the expansion. Companies must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for the money. Local governments must match the grant, for it to move ahead.
Nebraska Plastics has a colorful history. Milo German, Paul German's grandfather, started the company in Cozad in 1945, after he invented the use of siphon tubes for irrigation. He wanted to produce the tubes from aluminum, but aluminum was scarce — it was all being used in the war effort. So he started tinkering around with plastic, creating what company officials say is now the oldest continuous family-owned plastic extrusion company in the world.
Plastic itself was a young material in the 1940s.
The company was starting to grow when Milo German crashed his plane in a pasture south of Ashby, Neb., in 1957. He was killed, along with two other people. Nebraska Plastics had 30 employees and was housed in an 11,000-square-foot building. Today the company employs more than 100 in a 91,000-square-foot building.
When Milo died, his 22-year-old son Rex quit his job as a schoolteacher to run the company. His love of education helped him in the business world because he attended the Harvard Business School Executive Education program.
Well before the fence innovation, Nebraska Plastics invented above-ground PVC irrigation pipe for agriculture. The company worked with what was then Dow Chemical Co. to develop the first weatherable PVC compound, according to a company history by the Cozad Chamber of Commerce. The product took off. The company also developed the first tongue-and-groove PVC planking, which was used for walls and flooring in hog barns.
In the late 1970s, Rex German and his wife, Lois, moved their family to the family farm east of Cozad. They bought some horses and needed a new fence, so they used some PVC profiles that Nebraska Plastics was making for other industries.
In 1978, Rex German started marketing to the fence industry. After many rejections by people at traditional fence companies, the product finally took off when Nebraska Plastics found people from outside the sector who appreciated the innovation and durability of the new product.
Today, Nebraska Plastics competes with vinyl fence manufacturers worldwide while selling to thousands of independent contractors in North America and more than 20 countries. The company still makes irrigation pipe.
Rex's son, Paul German, became vice president in 2006 and moved up to president in 2017.