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Smooth-On expands facility, thanks in part to Hollywood

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EASTON, Pa.—With the company “bursting at the seams” according to its co-owner, Smooth-On Inc. is moving from an 80,000-sq.-ft. facility to a newly refurbished 360,000-sq.-ft. facility located 15 miles away from its current location in Easton.

And Smooth-On has Hollywood to thank for some of its success.

All 200-plus employees of the liquid rubber and plastic manufacturer likely will make the move to the new location in September, said Clay Western, vice president of sales. Construction and retrofitting of the new site will continue until then.

“We're glad to have room to breathe as we have been out of space for some time,” Western said. “We added another 30,000 square feet a few years ago, and we had grown out of that the first day that we opened the new space. We've been running three shifts for the better part of a few years, so it's been a tremendous growth period.”

Smooth-On manufactures rubber, plastic, foam and other products, turning them into three-dimensional end products. These products include many sculptures produced in the U.S., elaborate pieces of architectural ornamentation or restorations, models and prototypes that can are used by such companies as AT&T Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc., Ford Motor Co. and others.

The new facility is a refurbished manufacturing site, located in a portion of Lower Macungie Township that has been hit hard over the years by the decline of manufacturing in that part of Pennsylvania. Local officials hope the move will help to spur some residential and commercial growth in the community, according to local media reports.

One of the many reasons for Smooth-On's growth has been its success in a field not generally considered common for manufacturers—the movie industry. Smooth-On has made customized plastic materials, including special effects, for movie studios for the last 25 years. The company operates small offices in Hollywood and London near the main movie studios in those cities.

Although its movie business comprises a somewhat small percentage of overall revenue, it might be the most interesting industry that the company serves.

“We have made plastics for spaceships that have been shown in Star Wars movies and materials for popular shows like "The Walking Dead' and "Vampire Chronicles,' “ Western said. “It's been a great business for us, and we have designed plastic items for many of the same customers regularly for years.”

The firm has manufactured three-dimensional special effects out of rubber, plastic and other materials for all Harry Potter movies, James Bond films and many others, Western said.

Smooth-On employs approximately 12 professionals who focus specifically on the movie industry.

While Smooth-On doesn't expect to add many new employees right away, the consistent upward growth of the company virtually ensures that hiring will continue over the next few years, Western said. The company has open positions in such fields as manufacturing, packaging, sales and marketing, accounting and laboratory development.

“We're taking our entire work force with us (to the new location), and there will certainly be new hires in all departments in the next few years,” Western said. Smooth-On makes products for the construction and mining industries. Its applications are made for concrete casting, candlemaking, industrial needs, medical simulations, taxidermy and others.

While Western maintained that revenue growth has been consistent, he declined to reveal figures.

“It's a very competitive industry,” he said, “and we don't want to tip our hand to those competitors. But we have been fortunate to experience consistent growth in both revenue and in our number of employees.”