Chinese plastics maker to build US factory

Updated: 2014-06-11 07:30

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)

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Pennsylvania facility set to employ 75 as October start is anticipated

When it comes to business relations between the world's two largest economies, US companies are normally the ones sending production overseas. Now a Chinese company is headed this way.

"A Chinese company making things in the US is not what we've heard a lot over the last decade," said Frank Facchiano, chief operating officer (COO) of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. "It's been quite the opposite, but this area has a history of being heavily involved in industrial manufacturing."

Taizhou Fuling Plastic Co., a plastic tableware and kitchenware maker, has become the first China-based firm to establish its US operations in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania.

On May 29, Taizhou announced plans to invest more than $20 million to set up the plant, which is expected to hire about 75 people.

The plant will help Fuling reduce shipping costs and increase its infrastructure in the US market. Hu Xin, Fuling's CEO, said the production facility is "very important" for the direction of Fuling's operations in the US.

"We selected the Lehigh Valley because of its location and the cooperation of officials to bring us here," Hu said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 29. "It becomes a wise choice by a responsible entrepreneur to establish a factory near its customers."

Lehigh Valley, an area that covers parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is the 68th largest metropolitan region in the US. The area also includes a $33 billion economy and covers more than 15,000 businesses, according to US Census data.

Pennsylvania's Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, who attended the ceremony for Fuling, said the deal with Fuling proves that "Gov. Corbett [and his] administration's policies are working".

Fuling, which employs 1,500 employees worldwide, will make a $21.3 million investment in the project at an 88,000 square-foot facility in Upper Macungie Township, Pennsylvania.

Fuling Plastics USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the parent company, will start operating from the factory as early as October, according to estimates from company officials.

After considering sites in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and several different sites in Pennsylvania, the company chose the Lehigh Valley location.

Fuling, founded in 1992, is a wholesale supplier of plastic cutlery, dining kits, drinking straws and tableware to a number of players in the foodservice industry, including fast food staples like McDonald's, Burger King and Subway.

Its products are sold throughout most of the US and China, and also in Australia, Europe, South America and the Middle East.

The Zhejiang province-based manufacturer also supplies products for three national supermarket chains: Wal-Mart, BJ's Wholesale and Target.

A number of business development organizations, including the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (LVEDC), worked on the recruitment of Fuling, a process that took nearly a year, according to a press release.

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the LVEDC, said he and his colleagues courted Fuling "very heavily".

"We think that this is potentially the tip of the iceberg for Asia, European or South American-based companies to realize that it's possible to manufacture cost-effectively in the US," Cunningham said on Tuesday in an interview with China Daily. "I think they were pleased with the level of interest we had in them coming to Lehigh Valley."

Facchiano, with the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: "[Lehigh Valley] is a gem that people are discovering. I'm sure [Fuling] had other options and I think it speaks to the work that our state government has done over the past couple years to make Pennsylvania attractive. In the face of jobs going overseas ... this is certainly a fresh piece of news and hopefully the beginning of a trend."