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Suppliers follow tire makers to Palmetto State

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Gary Horning, director of carbon black services at Intertex.
Gary Horning, director of carbon black services at Intertex.

COLUMBIA, S.C.—As major tire makers invest billions in South Carolina, three suppliers to the industry are following suit with expansion efforts that represent a combined $51.3 million investment that will create more than 100 jobs for the state.

Intertex World Resources Inc.—a distributor of elastomers, masterbatches, natural and synthetic rubber, process oils, and carbon black—is investing $3.2 million to establish a facility in Moncks Corner, S.C.—about 35 miles from Charleston, S.C. The firm will service the South Carolina tire manufacturing industry at its 100,000-sq.-ft. facility, specializing in the warehousing and transloading of carbon black. The investment is projected to create 10 jobs in the area.

Steel cord and bead wire maker Kiswire Inc. is proceeding with an expansion at its plant in Newberry County, which is Northwest of Columbia, S.C., commencing work on the second phase of a $45 million, three-year project, projected to create 75 jobs.

And King Machine—a mold manufacturing and service company based in Charlotte, N.C.—is investing $3 million and will create 20 jobs as it establishes a new facility in Sumter County.

“When you look at what's going on within the tire industry, South Carolina is becoming the new Akron if you will, with all the production that has opened up or is going to be opening up in that state,” said Gary Horning, director of carbon black services at Intertex.

Michelin, Bridgestone Corp. and Continental A.G. currently operate a combined 13 tire manufacturing facilities in South Carolina, with facilities from Trelleborg A.B. and Giti Tire Group scheduled to open by 2016.

Intertex eyes region

In addition to the players in South Carolina, Horning identified other regional tire plants scheduled to come online from Hankook in Tennessee and Kumho in Georgia along with existing plants operated by Toyo Tires in Georgia and Yokohama in Virginia and Mississippi as reasons for Intertex to establish a presence in the Southeast U.S.

Horning said the firm's South Carolina facility can serve any company from Virginia to Georgia and as far west as Tennessee.

Intertex imports from two major markets—China and Russia. The Port of Charleston, another logistics plus in establishing a base in South Carolina, services both Russia and China, he said.

The firm operates about 20 public and company owned warehouses across the country with customer service centers in Georgia and Ohio.

“We're more than just a broker,” Horning said. “We have some longstanding relationships with people throughout the world that has enabled us to become a full-service supplier of carbon black in the industry.”

Celanese Corp. originally constructed the building, which sits on 10 acres of land, in the 1970s. Horning said Intertex has the ability to double its size if it sees fit. The building was designed to be expanded because the roof slopes only in one direction, making it easy for the firm to complete the second half if it chooses.

Intertex's South Carolina facility is operational and includes a rail line and eventually will have three loading docks. Just one dock is operational now, but Horning said the other two are scheduled to come online within the next few months.

The firm will import carbon black in super stacks and transload it through hopper trucks at its South Carolina facility. The building has a track that goes right to the front door of the plant. Horning said the firm can expand that for hopper cars if demand dictates.

“The governor (Nikki R. Haley) down there is a very pro business person. She was recently re-elected with a very large majority and has really pushed South Carolina forward as a state to do business in. One of the areas they've targeted has been the tire industry, with what they've done with Bridgestone and Michelin,” Horning said.

“We fit in as a subset of that group. We're there to help supply that area in particular. With the producers they have in there, it's a nice fit for our business.”

Kiswire on second phase

Kiswire's second phase represents a $30 million investment and will add 170,000 square feet to its Newberry County plant. The facility will convert high carbon steel rod through a process that involves drawing, heat treating and electro-plating to supply the existing building, the firm said.

In December 2013, Kiswire completed the first phase of its expansion—a $15 million investment that created 30 new jobs. When finished, the employment count at its two Newberry locations will reach about 200.

When this expansion is complete, Kiswire expects to be able to supply all U.S. tire companies. The firm is a subsidiary of Kiswire Co. Ltd., based in Seoul, South Korea.

“This new steel cord plant positions Kiswire as a major supplier to this growing tire business,” Jim Goodrich, plant manager, Steel Cord Division, said in a statement. “We are proud to be part of the bright future in South Carolina.”

King to service, inspect

King Machine's new facility in Sumter County will inspect, service and repair equipment used in the production of tires. The firm said employees already are working within Continental's Sumter plant.

King Machine President Michael Wells said in a statement the company has leased a vacant building to serve as a temporary facility and is in the early stages of planning for the construction of a new building in Sumter County.

The Sumter facility will be the firm's fifth U.S. location—operating four other facilities in Ohio and North Carolina.

“This is the first time in our company's growth that we have really worked with a local community,” Wells said. “Previously, we just had to do it all on our own, but we've found Sumter to be a warm and welcoming community.”

The South Carolina Department of Commerce said the state has recruited more than $5 billion in capital investment and created 9,000 new jobs in the automotive-related sector.