Pipe manufacturer to create 44 jobs in Fair Bluff

By: The News Reporter
The town of Fair Bluff is getting an economic boost as Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that Texas-based polyethylene pipe maker Pipeline Plastics will spend $4.6 million in a production center that will employ 44 workers. The plant will be located in the former Ply Gem plant on U.S. 76. 

Pipeline Plastics will spend $4.6 million in a production center that will employ 44 workers. The plant will be located in the former Ply Gem plant on U.S. 76. 

Pipeline Plastics will spend $4.6 million in a production center that will employ 44 workers. The plant will be located in the former Ply Gem plant on U.S. 76. 

“I think it shows that Columbus County is an excellent destination” for companies that distribute manufacturing products for the southeastern U.S. and globally, said Joe Melvin, marketing director of North Carolina’s Southeast, a regional economic development marketing organization that helped attract Pipeline Plastics. 

“To get a company into that vacant facility in Fair Bluff, which has been hit so hard by hurricanes and economic stagnation, I think it’ll be a really nice shot in the arm to that community,” said Steve Yost, president of North Carolina’s Southeast. 

The Ply Gem plant has been closed since 2019, when parent company Cornerstone Building Brands announced it was moving production out of state.

Pipeline Plastics’ operation “will put some good jobs back into that community, bring people in who will buy gas, get a bite to eat and bring some cash flow into the town from the salaries,” said Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier. 

Expansion plans 

Along with the 44 jobs announced Thursday, Lanier said Pipeline Plastics will potentially hire more workers once the company installs additional extrusion lines. Cooper said that once the new jobs are in place, the area will benefit from a “nearly 1.6 million payroll impact in the community, each and every year.

“North Carolina’s appeal as a center for manufacturing continues to attract companies from many different industries,” Cooper said. “Our focus on building a well-trained workforce, combined with North Carolina’s outstanding transportation networks and East Coast market access, offers companies like Pipeline Plastics the right ingredients for success.”

The high-performance polyethylene pipe that Pipeline Plastics produces can be used for a variety of purposes, according to its website, “including drinking water, irrigation, mining, industrial, sewer and oil and gas gathering and distribution.”

“We are excited to bring our culture, reputation, and methodology as one of the safest, most sustainable and most efficient companies in the industry,” said Mike Leathers, president and chief operating officer of Pipeline Plastics after Cooper’s announcement. “This facility will not only create jobs and careers for this location but be a significant multiplier for the local economy, from jobs to suppliers and transportation.”

Railroad was a draw

Work to upfit the plant will begin this week, according to Lanier. He said that raw materials will be brought in on train cars through R.J. Corman Railroad Company and CSX Transportation, and the center will create pipes up to 65 inches wide.

“We are very pleased to be a partner of North Carolina’s Southeast, Columbus County Economic Development Commission and Pipeline Plastics,” said Todd Bivins, spokesperson for R.J. Corman. “When R. J. Corman restored railroad operations in the region in 2016, we expressed our commitment to providing exceptional rail service as a competitive freight transportation solution. It is rewarding to see how that commitment is a contributing factor to economic growth, particularly for this community today.”

The plant will run 24 hours a day, with 16 rail cars of raw materials arriving each week.

Melvin said the process of bringing in Pipeline Plastics started in October through a virtual meeting.

“The value proposition was so strong they came in within two weeks,” Melvin said. he explained that the former Ply Gem facility satisfied Pipeline Plastics’ very specific building requirements.

“The Columbus County Economic Development Commission [and] the town of Fair Bluff worked to put together an incentive project to modify a building to meet their needs,” Melvin said. 

The project will receive a One North Carolina Fund performance-based grant worth $125,000, plus technical assistance from Duke Energy, and Lanier said that work is underway on a building reuse and restoration grant to offset some improvements to the facility. Lanier estimated the uplift costs to eventually exceed $900,000. Additionally, Southeastern Community College will provide workforce training, Melvin said.

“The OneNC Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment,” the Cooper announcement said.

Two announcements in a week

The news of Pipeline Plastics follows the economic development announcement of Contract Lumber, which opened a new facility that will soon be manufacturing floor joists and trusses alongside R.J. Corman Railroad on Georgia Pacific Road.

“We hoped to have several strong announcements as the pandemic eased and the economy picked up steam, so it’s good to see it happening with the second new jobs announcement in a week,” said Les High, chair of the Columbus County Jobs Foundation and publisher of The News Reporter. “The Ply Gem plant was a natural fit for a pipe manufacturing company, and our team put together a strong proposal. Like Contract Lumber, [Pipeline Plastics] will be a heavy user of R.J. Corman Railroad, which is another win. It’s an even greater bonus that this will help Fair Bluff.”

Yost said this is a reflection of an increase in manufacturing activity within the region.

“This type of company [is] wanting to be deeper in the market, where there is higher, stronger economic growth or projected growth,” Yost said. “That’s our mission, marketing this region nationally, globally.” 

Lanier said he knows many people who used to work at the Ply Gem plant are interested in working there again. These former workers, Lanier said, now drive upwards of 45 minutes one way for work elsewhere.

“They’re super friendly people and it’s a great place to live,” Lanier said of Fair Bluff.