NEW YORK — South Korean fiber manufacturer Hyosung Corp. is trying to make inroads in the U.S. spandex market.
The $4.65 billion conglomerate established a Charlotte, N.C., office last year and is in the process of building a 67,000-square-foot office in Rock Hill, S.C. It’s part of a push to build the presence of its Creora brand of spandex in America, according to James “Rusty” Ford, vice president of the company’s U.S. arm.
“One of the big things that I’m going to do is to show the customers that the Koreans are very committed to the U.S. market,” said Ford, who joined the firm last year after working for Globe Spandex, now Radici Spandex. “There is always going to be a fabric market here in the U.S.”
While the company’s current focus is gaining market share with U.S. textile mills — it estimates that it currently accounts for 5.7 percent of the U.S. supply — it’s laying the groundwork to bring its polyester and nylon products to the American market, as well.
Seoul-based Hyosung currently produces 25,500 metric tons of spandex a year at two plants in South Korea and one near Shanghai. It’s planning an expansion of the Chinese facility that will bring its total capacity up to 34,000 metric tons a year.
While overcapacity in the spandex market has depressed prices for the past few years, Ford said he believes growing consumption of the fiber will bring supply and demand closer into line over the years ahead.
Ford said another part of his mission is building awareness of the Creora brand with U.S. retailers who source goods overseas. That awareness will become particularly important in 2005 when quotas are lifted among members of the World Trade Organization.
Hyosung also has operations in industrial materials and chemicals, which are a result of acquisitions made following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. But the company is looking to the textile business, which contributed 43 percent of last year’s revenue, as a primary growth engine.
“More and more large companies are trying to get away from the textile market and we want to embrace the textile market,” Ford said.
One of the company’s main hurdles in the U.S. will be going up against DuPont, the largest spandex producer in the world, and its Lycra brand.
Hyosung has a strategy for that. Ford said, “We price ourselves below DuPont and try to price ourselves above the rest of the world.”