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Suominen announces expansion in Bethune
McCoy
Bethune Mayor Charles McCoy welcomed Suominen officials to Bethune, and joked he would get home before everyone else because he lives right outside the plants gates. Also speaking Tuesday were State Sen. Vincent Sheheen and Suominen President and CEO Nina Kopola. - photo by Gary Phillips

Suominen, a Helskinki, Finland, global manufacturer, announced plans Tuesday to expand its Bethune facility in Kershaw County, creating at least 25 new jobs. Suominen is the world’s leading supplier of nonwoven textiles, such as baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, swabs and similar products used primarily for cleaning.

The company is expanding its manufacturing operations and its largest current expansion is planned for Bethune. Overall, it employees approximately 600 people on three continents. The company is expanding in Bethune by adding a wet laid production line to its existing operations at 500 Chestnut St.. The investment supports what the firm says is its growth initiatives for the strategic period of 2015–2017.

The company made the news official with an event Tuesday which included S.C. Governor Nikki Haley, area lawmakers and Suominen officers and its board of directors who came from Finland. Larry Kinn, senior vice-president for the Americas, served as host and introduced his fellow speakers, starting with Suominen Board Chairman Jorma Eloranta.

“This is really an exceptional day in the history of Suominen. Not so long ago, we had at our hands a company with heavy debt, low profitability and limited resources for expansion. However, we could envision that with hard and determined work, something great could be achieved,” Eloranta said. “The Bethune plant became part of Souminen less than four years ago in connection with a major business acquisition. We have developed the company and have succeeded in turning it around.”

Suominen President and CEO Nina Kopola gave credit to the Bethune facility’s employees for achieving the expansion.

“I am proud of the people of this plant and their devotion. We are here today because one of the big projects is our investments in the new wet laid line. This investment is the single largest project of this program,” Kopola said. “The success of this project will largely influence Suominen’s future. Why have we chosen Bethune? This plant has been producing nonwovens for over 50 years. Even before that, textile was manufactured here -- it had a long history of industrial production. As of today, Bethune already represents one of our most versatile production platforms. We have extraordinary people here in Bethune. Our personnel have demonstrated the ability to deliver products to quite outstanding customer needs.”

Haley said she was proud to be included in the Bethune announcement, adding she has continually worked to make South Carolina attractive to new business and existing business growth.

“What we’re really proud of is when one of our very own companies expands. That’s the ultimate compliment. That’s what it’s all about, and what you’re looking at with Suominen is they’re the largest producer of nonwovens and they have chosen Bethune to do that expansion,” Haley said. “They focus so much on quality. They’re not just happy with being the largest. They want to be the best. So, it’s all about making it better … and they do it through the passion of their people. That’s who they are and that’s who South Carolina is.”

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen thanked his fellow lawmakers at the state level, Kershaw County Council and Bethune Town Council for their parts in promoting economic growth.

“We are proud of this site and we are so thankful to each of you for what you’re doing to continue that into the future. I am most thankful to the employees who work here each and every day,” Sheheen said.

Bethune Mayor Charles McCoy elicited laughter and a round of applause when he thanked the Suominen leadership for coming all the way from Finland, while pointing out he had a much shorter trip.

“Welcome to Bethune. It’s a great place to be today, especially for me because I live just outside the gate and I can see everybody pass, so I’m not going to have any trouble getting home tonight. This is a big honor to be out here and we’re pleased to celebrate this announcement this afternoon,” McCoy said. “Bethune is a special place. The company has been here quite a while and have been making improvements and we are certainly pleased they are going to make this expansion at this time.”

Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns said the expansion is due to several factors.

“We know these decisions are competitive and Suominen could have chosen anywhere, but you chose Bethune because of the commitment of our governor and her government, the readiness of our infrastructure in Kershaw County and because of all these fine people out here,” Burns said. “This company is a long-time friend of Kershaw County and we thank you for staying here and choosing this place.”

The new line is expected to be installed during the second half of 2016. Open positions will be posted online once hiring progresses. Those with applicable skills and experience, who are interested in joining the Suominen team at Bethune, should e-mail resumes to Jobs.bethune@suominencorp.com.