Jun 30, 2023

Charlotte Pipe targets Midwest with $80M Kansas plastics plant

Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co. is spending $80 million to open a greenfield plastics pipe plant in Kansas, its seventh nationwide, to expand both geographically and in irrigation markets.

A company executive said the investment in Maize, Kan., will let Charlotte Pipe better supply residential and light commercial building markets in the Midwest, along with irrigation piping in agriculture.

"It's a little of both," said Bradford Muller, vice president of communications for Charlotte, N.C.-based Charlotte Pipe. "We've had a plant in Cameron, Texas, that for a long time that served a lot of the Midwest and Upper Midwest market. But Texas as you know has been booming for a decade and a lot of other areas of the country are doing quite well. Demand for our product has increased."

In an interview, he also pointed to the company's 2017 acquisition of a smaller Florida irrigation pipe maker, Accord Industries, as another market that the 134,000 square foot Kansas plant will supply products to.

"The Midwest uses a lot of that irrigation pipe," Muller said. "It's both better service for our traditional products and also to help us make inroads into the irrigation business."

The company says it's the largest maker of plastic drain waste vent pipe in the United States. It plans to start construction in 2024 and open the facility in early 2025, according to a May 10 news release from Kansas government officials.

In a statement distributed by the economic development agency Greater Wichita Partnership, the company's CEO said the Kansas plant marked an opportunity to grow operations in the Midwest.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to expand our operations in the Midwest," said Charlotte Pipe CEO Hooper Hardison. "Maize is ideally located in the center of the country to help us better serve our customers."

The company ranked as the 13th-largest maker of plastic pipe, profile and tubing extrusions in North America in 2021, with an estimated $470 million in relevant sales, in the most recent Plastics News ranking.

Muller said the privately owned company was not disclosing production capacities at the Kansas facility but said it will have 50 employees, about the same size as its five other satellite plastic plants in the United States.

"It'll be a similar size to the ones we already run in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Utah and Alabama," Muller said.

The company's main pipe plant, in Monroe, N.C., is significantly larger than its five smaller regional plants.

Charlotte Pipe makes PVC, chlorinated PVC and ABS pipe and fittings, and has about 1,700 employees in both its plastics division and a foundry it has in Charlotte to make cast iron pipe.

Charlotte Pipe is also currently building a $460 million foundry in Oakboro, N.C., to replace its foundry in Charlotte, Muller said.

"We continue to invest in both sides of our business, cast iron and plastic," he said.

The company started in 1901 making cast iron pipe and fittings and expanded into plastic pipe in the 1960s.

The Kansas facility is its first new plastics plant since 2008, when it built a facility in Cedar City, Utah.

Muller said its plastics pipe is mainly sold in residential and light commercial projects like strip malls, while the cast iron pipe is used in larger structures like high-rise buildings, stadiums and hospitals.

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