Lenzing

The Made in America movement in the textile industry is going strong and received a big boost from the Lenzing Group on Tuesday.

Lenzing said it is investing $293 million to build a Tencel fiber plant in Mobile, Ala., where the cellulosic fiber giant already has a factory.

The new facility will have a production capacity of 90,000 tons a year and will be the largest Tencel fiber plant in the world. Lenzing said the opening of the plant will set a milestone in the history of lyocell fibers, with the facility able to utilize the latest technological standards. The plant is scheduled to start production in the first quarter of 2019.

“This expansion strengthens Lenzing’s commitment to our customers and consumers in the U.S.,” said Stefan Doboczky, chief executive officer of Lenzing.

The vertical fiber manufacturer said it aims to increase the share of specialty fibers as a percentage of revenue to 50 percent by 2020. Lenzing’s specialty fibers center on the core Tencel and modal brands that are used in various fashion sectors, from innerwear to denim, and it also produces the more commercially used viscose. Lenzing makes its wood-pulp based fibers using a closed-loop manufacturing method, allowing for little raw material waste and greater energy efficiencies.

The latest move follows Lenzing expansion plans set this year at its headquarters location in Lenzing, Austria, and Grimsby, U.K. Lenzing currently has a worldwide production capacity of 222,000 tons a year of Tencel fibers. The new plant in Mobile, plus the already revealed projects, will increase the total Tencel fiber capacity more than 50 percent by 2019.

The company said the decision to build the new plant in the U.S. was supported by the good infrastructure at its Mobile site and attractive energy costs.

“This investment represents another major milestone in the implementation of our corporate strategy sCore TEN,” Doboczky said. “It will bring us a big step further to reach our target of 50 percent revenue from specialty fibers by 2020. This expansion also underscores our commitment to all our Tencel fiber customers, who continue to make their products even more sustainable using Tencel fiber, the world’s most sustainable botanic fiber.”

Introduced last year, sCore TEN is a multifaceted plan that aims to increase the share of specialty fibers to 50 percent of revenue by 2020, expand its quality and technological position for man-made cellulose fibers and open new business areas.

Tricia Carey, director of global business development at Lenzing, noted that Mobile was the manufacturing site for the first commercial production of Tencel lyocell fiber in the early 1990s.

“The continued growth in Tencel is supported by strong market demand and a high regard for sustainability,” said Carey, who is based in New York.

Carey has noted that Tencel has seen strong growth in the denim sector as brands and consumers look to incorporate denim into the ath-leisure trend and as Lenzing has worked to engineer Tencel to be blended with other fibers such as cotton and wool.

The company said the implementation of its expansion program is essential for driving the Lenzing Group’s organic growth agenda. This brought about a decision to create a new management board role, pooling together the key technical, operational and engineering responsibilities.

The company’s supervisory board on Tuesday appointed Heiko Arnold as the new chief technology officer. In addition to a strong scientific and technical education, Arnold has gained experience with BASF in the realization of major investment projects and continuous operational improvements, as well as extensive know-how in research and development. He will be responsible for all technical departments in the Lenzing Group.

“Lenzing is on a successful, dynamic growth course with the development and implementation of the new sCore TEN corporate strategy, and that makes an increase in the management board to four persons a reasonable step,” said Hanno Bästlein, chairman of the Lenzing supervisory board. “His [Arnold’s] 15 years of experience in Asia, in the realization of major investment projects and in operational excellence make Arnold a perfect match for the challenges faced by Lenzing.”

The resurgence in U.S. textile manufacturing has gained momentum in the last few years and seems to be growing stronger even before Donald Trump takes office as president with his promise of growth in domestic manufacturing.

Last week Everest Textile USA, a maker of performance fabrics, said it plans to build its first manufacturing plant outside Asia in Forest City, N.C.

Meridian Specialty Yarns is investing $8 million to build a 265,000-square-foot facility in Valdese, N.C., which will feature a new generation of technology, machines, controls and robotics for package, top and tow dyeing.

Construction began this spring to expand and reengineer Meridian’s existing plant in Valdese by 43 percent. The project should be completed by the first quarter of 2017 and is expected to add 26 jobs to Meridian’s 146 employees in Valdese.

Lenzing did not say how many jobs are expected to be created in its expansion in Mobile.

According to the National Council of Textile Organizations, the value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $76 billion last year, a nearly 14 percent increase since 2009. U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel are up 38 percent over that same time period, reaching $27.75 billion in 2015.

David Sasso, vice president of sales at Buhler Quality Yarns in Jefferson, Ga., which uses Lenzing fibers, said of the Austrian company’s expansion in Alabama, “It’s great because it validates the growth of U.S. manufacturing and shows the value of sourcing in the region. Timeliness of product has become key and this will allow for greater availability of Tencel to the U.S. market.”

In the nine months through Sept. 30, Lenzing reported consolidated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose 52.2 percent to $342.5 million. Consolidated revenue increased 8.2 percent in the same period to $1.69 billion.

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