Work to reconfigure the Hamlet Plastek plant’s infrastructure has been ramping up, and the company plans to move the first of its assembly lines in next month.
Plastek Division Manager Steve Ulrich said Thursday there are about five contractors who had crews at the site, with only one hailing from Pennsylvania and the rest from this region of the Carolinas.
“Basically, they’re putting a new heart and lungs in this plant to power everything,” Ulrich said. “In order to power our machines, we need several sources of water and air, so we’ve gutted a lot of the existing infrastructure in the plant and are replacing it.”
Project Manager Ray O’Donnell said more than 9,000 gallons of paint have been used already to refurbish the plant.
“We have millions of dollars in this facility to improve the infrastructure,” O’Donnell said. “The support from local contractors such as painters, pipe fitters, riggers, et cetera, has been fantastic.”
Ulrich said the facility upgrades represent upwards of $3 million in investment.
The state granted the company $250,000 towards the work, and the company plans to have about $19 million tied up in the facility when all is said and done.
Another $2 million could be earned by the company in tax incentives over the next nine years if it meets certain benchmarks set by the state for employment and wages.
Plastek Human Resources Manager Bob Welton said Thursday the company’s schedule has been pushed back a couple of weeks, but not for a lack of people who are willing to work.
“I literally stopped counting (the number of applicants) after it got to be more than 2,000,” Welton said from the company’s corporate headquarters in Erie, Pa. “We continue to get applications daily - just lots of good people that we’re hearing from.”
Ulrich said there are about 10 new hires from North Carolina who are training for management and technical training, and five to 10 more will make the trip in the next couple of weeks.
In addition, there are some workers from the Plastek plant in Erie that will be relocating to the area in December.
The relocated workers will account for many of the jobs when the first line is added in December, but Richmond Community College will come into play training new hires as more lines are installed.
“Not only is this exciting for us, but it’s good to be able to work for the community and find out what the needs are,” said RCC Director of Customized Training Lee Eller. “We strive to provide training for the businesses here, especially in tough economic times when businesses may not have the money to provide the kind of training they need. We actually have some programs where we may be able to train their workers without it costing them anything except the hourly wage of the employees for training.”
He said no new equipment is required to offer the training Plastek needs for its employees, but the college can also use third party vendors for training programs when they are not equipped to provide it.
“There is also money available from the workforce development boards to meet those kinds of needs,” he said.
Plastek’s expansion will make up for some if not all of the jobs that have been lost in the plastic industry in Richmond County recently..
Rexam took about 220 jobs with it when it left around the end of 2009, and Alpha Plastics announced it will lay-off about 32 people next month.
Over the next three years, Plastek plans to bring about 250 jobs to its Hamlet facility.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.