Texas was North Carolina’s main competition for Polyhose Inc.’s North American headquarters, Jonathan Pressler, the company’s senior vice president, said weeks after Gov. Roy Cooper and area economic developers announced Polyhose’s location in the Pender Commerce Park.
The company considered about half a dozen different locations, including Houston, Austin and San Antonio, before selecting North Carolina and a 9-acre property in the Pender County-owned industrial park this summer, he said.
India-based Polyhose plans to invest nearly $8 million to purchase land and build and outfit its national hub in Pender County, expecting to hire 51 workers.
Pressler said the company was slated to close on the land sometime in December. Pender County commissioners approved the $410,000 purchase price in August.
But how the company came to North Carolina and ultimately the Wilmington area began in 2018, when the firm started considering opening a U.S. base, Pressler said.
That summer, Polyhose officials attended a three-day investment conference in Washington, D.C.
At the conference, “there was this economic speed dating where economic groups, economic developers from all over the country send invitations to participants,” Pressler said.
Polyhose received many invitations, one being from Elizabethtown- based North Carolina’s Southeast, an economic development group covering an 18-county region including the tri-county area.
North Carolina wasn’t an area where Polyhose had been looking. But a 30-minute interview with North Carolina’s Southeast led the company to seriously consider the state, Pressler said.
The vast majority of current and potential customers for Polyhose are not in North Carolina, he said, unlike the state of Texas, which holds a very large customer base for its hoses.
Polyhose manufactures thermoplastic, hydraulic, PTFE and industrial hoses and tubing for large equipment companies such as Caterpillar, Boeing, Graco and Wagner SprayTech.
Polyhose was established in 1996 in Chennai, India. The company manufactures its hoses in India with operations in Europe, Africa and Asia, and employs about 1,800 people.
In December 2018, Polyhose leaders from India came to the Wilmington area and met with economic development groups North Carolina’s Southeast, Wilmington Business Development and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Pressler said.
“I would say that even though we continued to look at other places, that visit, and what they saw of the area, and the job that those groups did to promote the advantages of the greater Wilmington area, is what put the tri-county area into the lead.
“And what’s interesting is that they viewed Wilmington as just way too small. But the visit convinced them not only that it was not way too small but it was a good place to be for many different reasons: for the workforce, the availability of the workforce, the quality of life and the support that they would get from the Wilmington Business Development group and the state of North Carolina if Polyhose decided to come here,” Pressler said.
The company made several visits to North Carolina and the Wilmington area to check out available building space, while considering other locations outside the state.
“In the tri-county, Wilmington area, we didn’t find a building that fit our needs. And yet, we were sold on the long-term viability of being here,” he said. “The other areas that were competing and that we were interested in, the buildings that met our needs were much more expensive.”
Polyhose’s leaders wanted to own instead of lease space, Pressler said.
“Part of that is, they want to send a message to U.S. customers that they are in it for the long run,” he said.
The firm is expected to start coming up with its hiring plan early next year as well as finalize its plans for buildout and obtain the necessary permits, he said.
Polyhose plans to build a 40,000-square-foot facility for its warehouse, assembly and distribution and be operational in the fourth quarter of 2020.
The company is slated for a performance-based grant of $75,000 from the One North Carolina Fund to help its operation in Pender County.
In two to four years, Pressler said, plans are to add an additional 60,000 square feet and add hose manufacturing to the location.
Pressler helped the company in its 2018 search and officially joined Polyhose as its senior vice president in 2019.
“We’re starting to send a message to customers and potential customers that we’re going to have this nice facility and U.S. headquarters in the Wilmington area," Pressler said.