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Polyplex Corp. Brings $187 Million Project to Decatur

Thu December 08, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

The city of Decatur, Ala., is making history as the site of a $187 million construction project that’s being launched by the India-based Polyplex plant. It will mark the company’s first North American plant and will be located in Mallard Fox Creek Industrial Park. The site selected is already home to many of the city’s largest employers.

“Decatur was a good choice for Polyplex for many reasons, including the strategic supplier agreement with the BP plant in Decatur,” explained Polyplex spokesperson Angela Wilson. “BP will be the primary supplier for one of the raw materials to our process. In addition to the raw material supply, the strong industrial base along with the skilled workforce available in Morgan and surrounding counties made Decatur the optimum site selection for this significant capital investment.”

Company officials announced in July that the second phase should be completed in late 2015. The company also plans to relocate its U.S. headquarters to the site. The polyester film plant is under construction on property purchased for $1.7 million, with one of the local incentives including the clearing of trees and stumps from the site.

With site excavation in the very early stage, construction will be a fairly lengthy process. Groundbreaking was held in July 2011.

“This project is Polyplex’s first significant capital investment in the U.S. Additionally, it is the largest single capital investment Polyplex has made in the company’s history,” Wilson explained. “There are challenges with any large project, but the difficulties are not driven by our parent company being overseas. We have assembled a very talented project team who have partnered with excellent strategic partners. Thus far, we are very pleased with the progress of the project.”

Described as a global leader in high-performance plastic films made of polyester and polypropylene, Polyplex Corporation Ltd. was established in the 1980s and maintains plants in India, Turkey and Thailand. Polyplex produces a plastic film used primarily in food packaging, and is considered one of the world’s largest manufacturers of thin polyester film. Polyplex CEO Sanjiv Saraf said the new addition, most likely operating in three shifts, will be its best to date.

“When this plant opens next year, it will represent our company’s largest single capital investment ever,” he explained.

Amit Kalra, president and general manager of the company, stated, “We always felt we needed to have a significant presence in North America. We came to the point where we felt we needed to be closer to our customers.”

Polyplex reportedly first looked at locating in Mexico, where costs would have been lower; however, there were concerns over ongoing violence there, and officials were drawn to the high worker productivity in the United States. A handful of states were considered, before Polyplex tapped Decatur based on its sound infrastructure.

According to Polyplex plant manager Jeff Hudspeth, “As with all construction projects, timing and coordination are critical. To solve this we have an on-site project team working directly with the design and construction management teams for the duration of the project including the all-important commissioning phase.

“We couldn’t have picked a better design firm to work with,” said Hudspeth. “We’ve always used a collaborative approach to design where we incorporate innovative ideas from the designer and internal project team members. Here we have utilized more of a design-build approach to allow maximum speed while capturing the efficiency in design required from both a cost and technical perspective. At the end of the day one must always measure twice and cut once.”

Construction on a 42-acre tract acquired from Steel Technologies began in August. The general contractor of the massive project, Graycor Construction, is making certain construction goes as smoothly as possible in working with its various subcontractors and carrying out the company’s mission. Still in the very early stages of building, the project is winning high marks from area business and community leaders who recognize the economic impact of the new plant during difficult economic times.

Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, explained, “We were excited to have Polyplex select Decatur, Morgan County, Alabama for their first North American manufacturing facility and their largest capital investment in any single location. Polyplex is an excellent company and we enjoyed working with their site selection team throughout the decision-making process.

“Their facility,” Nails added, “is a good fit for our community, and they will benefit from the excellent transportation and utility infrastructure surrounding their site. The creation of 150 high-wage jobs during this economy is more than good news for our citizens.

Phase one of the plant will employ 100 workers at a $110 million facility. Phase two will add another $77 million in equipment and another 50 employees. Polyplex is focused on end-use market for the flexible packaging and industrial applications, with the Decatur plant expected to be operational by late next year.

“We are excited that Polyplex has chosen Alabama for their new production facility and for their U.S. Headquarters operation,” said Greg Canfield, director of the Alabama Development Office. “Alabama’s economy continues to diversify with these 150 new jobs and Polyplex’s large capital investment shows their confidence in our state’s economic development team and in our workforce. We look forward to seeing them grow and prosper in the area.”

The company is completely vertically integrated, upstream with its own feedstock resin and downstream in metalizing, silicone coating and extrusion coating, as specialty businesses, offering barrier films, release liners and thermal laminates. In 2010, Polyplex reported revenues in excess of $530 million. The company anticipates reaching $1 billion in revenues by 2013.

A team from India is expected to be actively involved in the construction process; however, most employees Polyplex hires when operations begin are expected to be local. Polyplex plans to move its North American headquarters from the Dallas area to Decatur when the plant is complete.

The company reportedly began talking with Alabama officials in January 2011 and is expected to be fully operational by the third quarter of 2012. CEG

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