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County Rolling in New Business

June 22, 2007
Newberry Observer Cindy Pitts, Staff Writer


Newberry is on a roll this week with its second economic development announcement unveiled yesterday.

Schweitzer-Mauduit (NYSE: SWM) announced on yesterday the purchase of the old Confalonieri building in the Newberry County Industrial Park on Highway 219. The property contains a 54,000 square foot manufacturing and office facility on a 10-acre site. The building has been empty for six years during which time Confalonieri declared bankruptcy in Italian courts.

On Tuesday Nasymth announced plans for its North American headquarters in Newberry and the building of a new plant to manufacture aerospace couplings.

The original investment planned by Schweitzer-Mauduit is approximately $4 million. Due to its infrastructure and layout, the site is well suited for its new job of coating paper for lower ignition propensity (LIP) cigarettes.

The company intends to employ 40 to 50 people in the first few years. Newspaper ads are already running for jobs at the facility and applications are being taken at the OneStop Workforce Center on Main Street in Newberry.

Roger Scheurer, manager of corporate environmental and manufacturing projects for Schweitzer-Mauduit, said he was looking for a used printing press for the operation. He was somewhat unsuccessful in his search and began to look at new presses until hearing there was equipment in the old Confalonieri building, which made paper laminate for wood flooring that could possibly suit the company's purposes.

After seeing the equipment, Scheurer learned the building was also on the market and suggested the company look at buying the building also.

"We could put the operation in Brazil, France or China but I asked "why don't we keep it in the U.S.?" Scheurer related.

The first day he came to Newberry in February, Scheurer met with local economic leaders. He said they provided the company with "all the positive things."

"It is an exhilarating feeling to get two new companies in one week," said County Councilman Mike Hawkins.

"We are continuing to create production in Newberry County," said Central Alliance SC President Mike Briggs.

County Council Chair Henry Summer said this is just another example of businesses being a part of the dynamic growth in the community.

Over the last few years, the company has established itself as the leader in the development of banded paper used in the construction of LIP cigarettes. To meet the increased demand, the company has added capacity for banded paper in advance of legislated LIP requirements.

"We are pleased to announce this LIP converting center, which will not only be focused on coating existing products but will also produce other banded products for emerging segments of the LIP market," Otto Herbst, president of the American portion of the operation, commented. "The operations will also contain equipment to slit banded bobbins and distribute banded papers to the U.S., Canadian and international customers. For security of supply reasons, we plan to add this capacity in a timely manner ahead of the predicted U.S. LIP demand increases and at a site independent of existing coating and banded paper operations. We view this as another step SWM is taking in support of its position as a market leader to ensure the security of supply of banded papers for the growing market of LIP compliant cigarettes."

The company has already started contracting with local business to begin the start up phase for the production facility. Following equipment installation and start-up, led by operations manager Ron Federico, initial production is expected to begin prior to the end of the year. It is anticipated that five to 10 employees will be hired from the Newberry area this year and that number will increase to 40 to 55 jobs in the next several years.

Schweitzer-Mauduit International is a diversified producer of premium specialty papers and the world's largest supplier of fine papers to the tobacco industry. It also manufactures specialty papers for use in alkaline batteries, vacuum cleaner bags, overlay products, saturating base papers, business forms and printing and packaging applications. Schweitzer-Mauduit and its subsidiaries conduct business in more than 90 countries and employee 3,500 people worldwide, with operations in the U.S., France, Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia and Canada. For more information the company's Web site is www.schweitzermauduit.com.

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