published Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Audia investing $50 million in Walker plant

The Eagle has landed ... in Walker County, Ga.

A Pennsylvania-based plastics maker plans to invest more than $50 million in a new manufacturing plant -- a project that business recruitment officials had dubbed "Project Eagle."

Larry Brooks, who directs the county development authority, said Wednesday that Audia International is slated to start work by early fall on a 240,000-square-foot facility on 25 acres and begin operating in about a year.

Neither Brooks nor the company would say how many people the plant will employ.

But Brooks said in January that a factory project it was pursuing called "Project Eagle" would provide some 200 jobs at build-out.

Todd Gummersbach, a spokesman for privately held Audia, said the factory will support the company's existing operations. The manufacturer employs about 1,000 people, most of them in North America, in 10 locations.

"We're compounders of plastic and in the distribution business," Gummersbach said, adding that its search for the new plant covered six states. "Walker County proved to be the best location for us."

Audia, which services the automotive, appliance, construction and packaging industries, will be the first tenant in Walker County's newest industrial park -- a 480-acre site just north of LaFayette on U.S. Highway 27, Brooks said.

He said the county is giving Audia 50 acres of land in the business park to cover the plant and potential growth by Audia. The company also will receive tax abatements as an incentive, Brooks said.

"With the jobs created by this and others we're working with, we'll be pulling people from surrounding cities to fill these jobs," he said.

Brooks said Audia is one of the bigger projects Walker has landed in recent years, and the county had been pursuing it for about 18 months.

"They've been very aggressive in trying to find a place to serve their markets best," he said.

Brooks said employees will be paid in the $10- to $15-per hour range.

Walker County had closed on the purchase of the land for the business in January. The county economic development authority bought it for $4.23 million from Joe Swanson and his son, David. Funding came from bonds backed by the special purpose local option sales tax, a levy of 1 cent per $1 of sales that voters renewed last November by roughly a 2 to 1 margin.

County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell had said a shortage of available land was hurting recruitment efforts.

"We're so pleased that Audia will be joining the community...," she said in a statement Wednesday.

Brooks on Wednesday presented a memorandum of understanding from Audia to the development authority regarding the project.

Audia has a 60-year history operating through subsidiaries Uniform Color Co., Washington Penn Plastic Co., and Southern Polymer Inc.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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