published Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Fiber adding to Walker County economy

Growth in 2012

• United Synthetics, an industrial fiber maker in LaFayette, Ga., growing staff to 60 employees with $3 million upgrade of plant

• Syntech Industries, $3 million expansion of carpet maker in LaFayette, adding 60 jobs.

• Phillips Machine Co., $3 million purchase of the former Blue Bird Plant in LaFayette, adding 40 to 50 jobs.

• GE Roper stove and oven plant in LaFayette added 100 jobs this spring

• Shaw Industries hiring this fall at its LaFayette carpet mill

Source: Company reports, Walker County Development Authority

An industrial fiber manufacturer that considered shifting its North Georgia production to South Carolina is instead investing $3 million to upgrade its LaFayette, Ga., plant.

United Synthetics Inc., which took over the shuttered Buster Brown Apparel mill just outside LaFayette in 1999, announced Monday it is installing new and more efficient equipment on two of its three production lines and adding 30,000 square feet of warehouse space.

"Because the county was willing to work with us, this new investment will keep us operating here," said Mike Lee, chief operating officer for the local United Synthetics plant.

Lee said his company considered relocating the fiber production to another plant in Spartanburg, S.C.

Walker County isn't providing any property tax breaks for the company, but an old pump station on the plant site is being turned over to the city of LaFayette to clear the site and help the company arrange financing for the plant upgrade.

"These plans will allow the LaFayette operation to remain competitive with the other operations the company has in different locations outside of Georgia," Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said in a statement Monday.

Lee said with the extra storage space in the new warehouse, the company will be able to ship more products directly to customers.

The 100,000-square-foot plant, located on a 16-acre site just outside LaFayette, has about 55 employees and should grow to 60 workers by year end, Lee said.

United Synthetics is a subsidiary of the Albany, N.Y.-based Stein Fibers LLC and supplies polyester staple fibers used in automotive, furniture and household items.

The addition is among five manufacturing expansions this year in Walker County. Collectively, those additions are expected to add nearly 300 jobs.

Larry Brooks, executive director for the Walker County Development Authority for the past four years, said 2012 has been his busiest year yet for new business investments.

"There are three other expansions possibly in the works right now, so there are some good economic signs here," Brooks said.

Over the past year, Walker County has added 422 net jobs, or 1.6 percent of its workforce, to cut the county's jobless rate from 9 percent a year ago, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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