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Suominens Bethune plant may expand
Suominen Nonwovens
An aerial view of Suominens Bethune plant, which may be poised for expansion, according to company officials. - photo by Kershaw County Economic Development website

Suominen is looking to expand its Bethune operation, according to a press release published Thursday on the company’s website.

The European company, which manufactures nonwovens as roll goods for wipes, medical and hygiene products, announced in January it had started the planning process to invest in a new wetlaid production line in North America.

If all goes as planned, that new production line will come to Bethune, according to the release.

As announced in January, the planned investment constitutes the most significant single initiative in Suominen’s 30 to 50 million Euro (about $32-53 million) investment program and supports Suominen’s growth target for the strategic period of 2015-2017, according to the release.

According to Saara Söderberg, vice president of marketing and product management and the project manager of the investment initiative, the new manufacturing line is an important component of the company’s growth strategy.

“Through successful strategy execution, as we have announced, Suominen would become a company with a net sales of roughly EUR 500 million by the end of 2017,” Söderberg said. “Besides, the investment would support our target to further increase the share of products with higher value-added in our portfolio.”

Larry L. Kinn, senior vice president of American operations, said the company chose the Bethune plant for several reasons.

“Bethune is ideally located in the Carolinas, the nonwovens hub of North America, and is favorably located from a logistical standpoint of serving our customers and managing our raw materials,” Kinn said. “Moreover, the Bethune plant already has ongoing operations, a very talented staff, and has considerable infrastructure already in place for the expansion.”

County officials said they are pleased with the announcement.

“This is clear recognition by others that Kershaw County is the place to conduct business, not only in South Carolina, but in the Southeast and the world,” Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns said. “The first principle of economic development is taking care of existing business and industry. The fundamentals of quality growth in Kershaw County start with that recognition. The second principle is ensuring that you have available all the pieces necessary to support and encourage such growth.”

Burns praised County Administrator Vic Carpenter and Economic Development Director Peggy McLean for their work with the project.

“This announcement is recognition of that effort, as well as the fact that when all the right pieces are present, industrial growth will occur,” Burns said.

“We are excited that Suominen has chosen its Bethune plant as the lead location for its potential expansion,” McLean said. “We have been working with the Suominen leadership to ensure they are confident that our local workforce and business community will provide everything needed for continued success.  This news is great for Kershaw County.”  

Suominen continues to prepare the investment project, with finalization of the decision still pending. Therefore, Suominen cannot yet comment the total value of the investment, according to company officials.

Suominen currently employs 185 people at the Bethune plant. The company is currently operating under a fee in lieu of taxes agreement with Kershaw County wherein it agreed to invest $45 million but has actually already invested more than $56 million according to Carpenter.