Charlotte-based National Gypsum announced Tuesday morning that the company is reopening its Wilmington plant.
The Wilmington facility, 838 Sunnydale Drive, was idled in 2009, “during the historic housing industry downturn and national recession,” officials said in a news release. The Wilmington plant at one point was in competition with another site in Tampa, Florida.
“We expect to have the plant operational by the end of the year," National Gypsum CEO Tom Nelson said in the release. “Wilmington will allow us to better respond to customer demand as the construction industry continues to build momentum. This plant also will help us grow our specialty gypsum board business which includes our successful family of PURPLE mold- and moisture-resistant products.”
Nelson visited Wilmington on Tuesday morning to announce the reopening of the Wilmington plant, and said, “It’s a good feeling and a proud moment for National Gypsum.”
In the next few weeks, there will be a lot of activity at the plant in preparation to reopen, Nelson said, adding that engineering and manufacturing staff will be meeting this week.
The company has selected Lance Davis as its new Wilmington plant manager. Davis has been with the company for about 20 years and was most recently at plant manager at its Long Beach, California facility.
“Lance will be the face of National Gypsum in Wilmington ... At Long Beach, Lance earned a reputation for running a high-quality, environmentally-responsible operation. He’ll be meeting with all our engineering and manufacturing staff tomorrow. They’ll be ordering equipment, going over the list of to-do’s, to prepare for the installation in the months ahead,” he said.
The company will also be busy hiring employees. “We've already hired three associates who worked with us before,” Nelson said, adding that the past hires were with National Gypsum officials on Tuesday for the announcement.
The company is planning to spend $25 million over five years to upgrade existing machinery and install new equipment. National Gypsum will be hiring and training new employees to supervise and operate the facility over the next few months, officials said in the release.
“It has been our great pleasure to work with the National Gypsum team,” Scott Satterfield, Wilmington Business Development CEO, said in the release. “The company’s willingness to invest significantly in its Wilmington facility says all the right things about our great area.”
Nelson recognized those with Wilmington Business Development, county commissioners and city council for their leadership and guidance in the reopening of National Gypsum’s Wilmington plant. Many of those officials were at the company’s announcement on Tuesday, along with members of the business community.
Nelson also thanked North Carolina Railroad Company, N.C. Department of Transportation and the Port of Wilmington for their efforts in positioning the company for the opening as well.
National Gypsum is expecting the first shipment gypsum rock at the Wilmington port from its Halifax, Novascosha quarry in August, Nelson said.
In addition to the upgrades and new equipment at the facility, company officials said plans are to build a rail spur into the plant, “further expanding its ability to reach customers, many of whom prefer rail deliveries.”
"The big driver for us is that a lot more of our product is moving via rail,” Nelson said Tuesday, following his announcement. “One thing that is happening in America right now, there's a big shortage of truck drivers and so a lot more of our product is moving by rail and this gives us a lot more flexibility to make sure we can get our product out to our customers in a timely basis.”
“It’s very rare that you see a plant, the same company reopen up in the community. And this company has been here since 1979 and it’s a good company. And we appreciate the $25 million investment in our community ... We appreciate the jobs," Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said Tuesday. "This is about jobs ... bringing good paying jobs in our city.”
Wilmington and New Hanover County officials have designated economic development incentives for National Gypsum for the reopening of its Wilmington site. The city of Wilmington approved up to $230,000 over five years while New Hanover County approved $350,000 over five years for a total package of $580,000.
In the release, Nelson said, “In turn, we will not only increase the community’s tax base and employ local citizens, but we also intend to be a good corporate citizen, as we were when the plant previously operated between 1979 and 2009.”
"We hope .. later this year or certainly by early next year that we will be making product," Nelson said.