PGI donates to Olympics

Charlotte-based Polymer Group Inc. is taking part in the 2008 Olympic effort with its donation of disposable surgical gowns for medical personnel at the Summer Games.

The company specializes in disposable nonwoven materials with high fluid barriers which can help protect medical workers from infectious diseases. As one of the world's leading producers of nonwovens, PGI teamed up with two Asian-based companies to donate 6,000 medical supply sets to the Beijing Emergency Medical Center.

While the market for PGI's product is mostly in the United States and Europe, the company has seen some interest in China, said Cliff Bridges, a company spokesman. It expects to see growth in the Chinese market after the Games.

“The Chinese are, of course, fast-forwarding very quickly, as you can see with the Summer Games,” Bridges said.

PGI has two manufacturing plants in China; that put it in a position to work with the Olympic committee, he said. PGI has more than 3,000 employees worldwide, with 18 manufacturing plants in eight countries, including N.C. plants in Benson and Mooresville. It has 90 employees at its Charlotte headquarters.

PGI debuted a breathable running shirt made of recycled plastic soda bottles with Nike during the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. The U.S. track and field athletes used the shirt in four running events, Bridges said.

While the medical field is the main market for PGI, the company also produces nonwovens for wipes and other industrial uses, such as automotive interiors and air filtration. The firm had sales of $290.9 million in the second quarter and earnings of $2.38 million, or 12 cents per share. Earnings more than doubled compared with the same period a year ago. Shares closed at $11 on Wednesday, down about half over the last year.