Fort Worth, Texas-based WL Plastics Corp. plans to expand in Elizabethtown, Ky., with a $17 million, 60,000-square-foot plant that will extrude high density polyethylene pipe and create at least 40 full-time jobs.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022 near the company's current facility in the 224-year-old city of 29,000. The Elizabethtown website says it is located within a day's drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population.
"We signed an option to purchase land just down from our existing plant," Erik Balthrop, senior manager of finance and procurement, said in a phone interview. "We think 'Etown' is a great location and we're at a preliminary part of the due-diligence process to make sure all the right boxes are checked."
Founded in 2000, WL currently operates eight U.S. manufacturing sites with more than 750 million pounds of annual production capacity. The company started out serving water, sewer, mining and industrial pipe markets in the Rocky Mountain region before expanding geographically.
WL Plastics then opened manufacturing operations for half- to 54-inch HDPE pipes in Cedar City, Utah; Statesboro, Ga.; Lubbock, Snyder and Bowie, Texas; Casper, Wy.; and Rapid City, S.D.
WL Plastics officials had initially selected Fort Edward, N.Y., for the ninth plant. However, in July 2020, four months into the pandemic, that $16 million plan was scrapped, in part because plastic pipe demand in the East had dropped, particularly from the oil and gas gathering markets.
Now, nine months later, the expansion plans are moving forward again but about 900 miles to the south and west of Fort Edward in the Fort Knox region of Kentucky.
"This location in Elizabethtown has been a terrific fit for our business and regional customer base and we see the potential for expansion as further opportunity for us to tap into the talented workforce this community has to offer," WL Plastics CEO Mark Wason said in a news release from the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation.
The foundation facilitates business expansions and relocations to the area.
In addition to a physical expansion, WL Plastics is looking at investing in machinery to expand capabilities to make complimentary pipe products, Balthrop said.
"If we didn't already have our budget committed this year and the pandemic hadn't impacted everything like it did, we probably would be farther down the road," he added.
Wason also hinted about the possibility of further expansion in Kentucky.
"Like so many others, our industry has not been immune to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," Wason said in the release. "However, as markets and demand for our products continue to recover, we will be looking for additional investment opportunities to help us capture that demand. We believe Elizabethtown is well-positioned to assist us in those efforts and we look forward to continuing our investigation into the opportunities this location has to offer."
WL Plastics is owned by chemical giant Ineos.
In Fort Edward, WL Plastics was going to purchase 25 acres and two warehouses for its ninth facility, which was to employ 50 new hires.
However, when the project costs were reevaluated and a falloff in oil and gas pipe sales was factored in, the Fort Edward plan reportedly was deemed economically unviable and dropped.
With $420 million in annual sales, WL Plastics is the 11th-largest pipe, profile and tubing extruder in North America, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.