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Industry Spotlight - Nov. 18, 2013
Suominen Nonwovens part of Bethune community
suominen team
Suominen employees take a moment to smile together. They are, from left to right, Terry Wilson, Kathy McCaskill, Ted Smith, Rip Stephens, Chris Barefoot, Don McCaskill, Jimmy Steen and Cathy Seegars. - photo by Haley Atkinson

Suominen Nonwovens’ primary product at its Bethune plant is nonwoven roll goods, such as baby wipes, floor mops, toilet wands, alcohol prep pads and undercast wraps. According to Plant Manager Darryl Fournier, its parent company is Suominen Corporation, located in Helskinki, Finland. The plant -- under various names and owners -- has been in Bethune for 60 years, Fournier said.

Suominen has previously been known as Ahlstrom, BBA/Fiberweb, International Paper/Veratec and Kendall. Fournier said most people he encounters “remember it best as Kendall.” Fournier has been the plant manager for three years and has 24 years of experience in the field.

Suominen’ site is 630,000 square feet. Its primary customers are Proctor & Gamble and Covidien, which maintains a plant of its own in Camden. The plant employs approximately 125 people. Fournier said those employees come not only from Kershaw County, but Lancaster, Hartsville and other surrounding communities.

“We have low turnover here,” Fournier said. “Employees tend to stay for awhile.”

The company uses local fibers whenever possible for its products and strives to employ local residents. Fournier said Suominen is a stable employer, that the average age of employees is 47 with a turnover rate of only 1 to 2 percent. He said the company invests in its employees and sponsors training to help them develop their skills.

Suominen recruits new employees by contacting temporary labor agencies such as AllStaff, by having a representative visit military exit recruiting fairs and by reaching out to local technical schools. There is an overall attitude at the company that each employee must contribute to see the site succeed, Fournier said.

Suominen is also active within the community. Fournier said it donates to “the United Way, local tech and public schools, local festivals, the sheriff’s association, local fire departments and donates excess supplies.”

As the “largest wipes producing company in the world,” Suominen is still relatively not well known to many in the county. Fournier said many “people don’t know we’re here, but we want people to know we’re here.”

(Industry Spotlight is a new monthly feature highlighting various companies in Kershaw County. The companies are chosen by the Kershaw County Economic Development Office for the Chronicle-Independent to tour facilities and interview officers and employees.)