Woodbridge adding new plant in Chattanooga to manufacture products for the automotive industry

Woodbridge adding new plant in Chattanooga to manufacture products for the automotive industry

April 28th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Construction continues on The Woodbridge Group's new plant off Lost Mound Drive near the Chattanooga Riverwalk.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The Woodbridge Group is opening a new manufacturing plant in Chattanooga.

The new facility will produce formed plastics products for the automobile industry and will operate independently of the two divisions the company already runs in the Scenic City: Woodbridge Foam Fabricating, a manufacturing plant that employs about 160 workers, and Woodbridge Foam Partners.

The new Woodbridge Chattanooga Formed Plastics is setting up shop in part of the 250,000- square-foot warehouse off Amnicola Highway that formerly housed Roxbury Carpet and once was an NK seed processing center.

The company is spending more than $2 million to renovate and add offices to the space now owned by the Chattanooga Warehouse Group, city building permits show. The Woodbridge division will lease just over 100,000 square feet of the sprawling building and is also adding a new 6,400 square foot building next to the warehouse.

"Woodbridge has operated in Chattanooga for 25 years, manufacturing polyurethane products for a variety of markets," said John Zianis, vice president of The Woodbridge Group's Formed Plastics Business Unit. "This facility improves our automotive positioning in the region. As business continues to grow, we aim to support many customers in the Southeastern states."

Woodbridge marketing and communications manager Ed Cauchi declined to say how many employees the division will hire or how much production the facility will generate. The company has advertised for an accountant, electricians, process engineers, set-up technicians and a maintenance mechanic.

The Woodbridge Group operates three similar facilities in Mexico, Canada and France. The expansion in Chattanooga is driven by rising demand, Cauchi said.

"Our company continues to thrive and grow, mostly in the automotive market and in other markets," he said. "The need arose and we're responding to customer needs."

The company has been working with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke for several months, said Charles Wood, vice president of economic development at the Chamber.

"We've assisted the company with real estate and the discussions around incentives," Wood said. "The incentive discussions are on-going right now. The two mayors are involved in the project and engaged, however the details haven't been finalized at this point."

Berke praised The Woodbridge Group's decision to expand in Chattanooga.

"This is the story of the growth of a company with longstanding operations in Chattanooga," he said. "That means increased job opportunities, which will fuel our growth as a city."

Wood said Chattanooga is becoming an automotive hub.

"Obviously Volkswagen is at the center of it, but we have a great automotive cluster that's developing here in Chattanooga," he said. "From the Chamber's perspective, we really view the opportunity from a community perspective. We have the ability to be the new center of the automotive South."

Woodbridge is a tier one supplier to original equipment manufacturers like Volkswagen or Ford, but The Woodbridge Group does not supply the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, according to Volks-wagen. Zianis said Woodbridge hopes the expansion will position the company to attract new customers.

"This region has developed into an attractive market, including original equipment manufacturers such as BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, KIA, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen," he said.

Coppinger said the new facility will help keep people in the area.

"Anytime you've got the potential to create jobs, you give people the opportunity to stay in Hamilton County and work," Coppinger said. "It's exactly the kind of job investment we're looking for in the county to continue the momentum we've had over the last few years."

The new Chattanooga division will produce four major product lines, Cauchi said, including Woodbridge's Structure Lite, Cargo Smart, Whisper Tech and Enerflex products.

Structure Lite products are used in vehicle seat frames while Whisper Tech is a line of sound-dampening foams. Enerflex products are designed to enhance vehicle safety during a crash, and Cargo Smart includes a variety of storage bins, trays and caddies to manage vehicle storage.

The company operates 62 facilities in 19 countries, according to The Woodbridge Group's website.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.