Performance Fibers to close New Hill tire reinforcement factory, lay off 175

05/02/2014 6:39 PM

05/02/2014 6:40 PM

A North Carolina manufacturer that’s facing intensifying Chinese competition and has been scaling back production in the U.S. for several years said Friday that it will close a 43-year-old manufacturing plant in New Hill and cut 175 positions.

Performance Fibers plans to close the facility, less than 25 miles southwest of Raleigh, within 15 months and consolidate production at its Salisbury plant. About 60 jobs will be transferred to Salisbury, where about 200 people work now.

The Huntersville-based maker of industrial fabrics notified its employees Thursday about the restructuring, which didn’t come as a total shock, as “they’ve been aware for quite a long time of the challenges our business has been facing from the competition,” said Brad Leach, the company’s marketing director.

Performance plans to invest $25 million to upgrade and modernize the Salisbury plant. The facility originally opened in 1967 and has twice the production capacity of the New Hill plant.

Leach said the company’s internal review pointed to a need to make significant investments to remain competitive and the focus came down to a single facility. “What became clear is you can’t spend that money everywhere,” he said.

The New Hill site employs 235 today, but about half of the plant’s production will be transferred to Salisbury in the next three months, and the rest will follow within 12 to 15 months, Leach said.

Performance remains the nation’s last producer of polyester tire reinforcements as production has migrated to cheaper facilities abroad, Leach said. The company idled manufacturing at two Alabama plants in 2008 and scaled back production at two North Carolina sites. Last year, Performance laid off 36 workers at the Salisbury plant.

The company is a global manufacturer with more than 3,000 employees in Mexico, China, Germany and France, as well as five locations in North Carolina: Hendersonville, New Hill, Salisbury, Shelby and Winnsboro.

Performance supplies local customers in each region from its foreign facilities, with the site in Kaiping, China, supplying customers that produce tires in Asia, Leach said.

Performance Fibers in its current iteration was created in 2004 when the business was sold by Honeywell International to private equity firm Sun Capital Partners.

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