Enquirer Herald

Textile firm expects to bring jobs near Clover

The raw material is being imported from Malaysia. The product is being exported, primarily to China. The labor for the new PermaShrink, however, is expected to be local.

PermaShrink announced Tuesday it will spend $3.3 million to equip a plant at the Westgate Industrial Park, just outside Clover's town limits. PermaShrink hopes to have the plant open within six to eight months. When operating, the plant will employ about 16 people in manufacturing and office positions.

The company will lease its building from the York County Natural Gas Authority, the industrial park's owner. The authority is constructing a 30,000 square foot building and leasing it to PermaShrink. Cost of the building has not yet been determined, said Jimmy Sprouse, the authority's vice president for engineering services.

This is the first time the authority has constructed a building for a tenant, Sprouse said.

The plant will make SanforSet rubber belts used in compressive shrinking machines, the final step in the textile process.

The process dates to 1938 and was invented by Sanford Cluett. The trademark "Sanforized" is based on his first name. The Cluett, Peabody and Company type shrinking process is commonplace in the industry.

The Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. plant, commonly known as the Bleachery, used Cluett machines as its final step. The machines not only shrink the fabric, but enhance its appearance and feel.

"It's the same technology with some new bells and whistles," said Chris Clickner, managing director of PermaShrink.

The improvements have come in the making of the belts, which range in thickness, width and circumference. Typically, a belt is 2 5/8-inch thick, between 65 and 145 inches wide and 13 feet in circumference. A belt weighs between 1,500 and 3,000 pounds.

Charlotte-based PermaShrink has more than 2,000 customers worldwide. In addition to manufacturing belts, the company provides technical assistance and other accessories for the compressive shrinking process.

PermaShrink selected Clover because of efforts of the York County Economic Development office, York County National Gas Authority and the governments of Clover and York County, Clickner said.

The company initially looked for an existing building but could not find anything suitable, Clickner said. The opportunity to locate in the Westgate Industrial Park with its access to natural gas, was a bonus, he said. The manufacturing process could be done electrically, but to have gas tocure the rubber is better, Clickner said.

Finished belts likely will be sent to Charleston for shipment overseas, he said.

'Fantastic' for Clover

It is the second textile announcement for Clover within two weeks. Tuscarora Yarns recently announced it is expanding operations at its Clover plant, investing $3.5 million and hiring 40 workers.

"This is really fantastic news for us," said Allison Harvey, Clover town administrator. The two textile firms will mean "people have an opportunity to work close to where they live," said Harvey, adding that having plant workers buying locally will be a boon to area businesses.

While the Westgate Industrial Park is just outside town limits, the PermaShrink plant will be a water and sewer customer of the city, Harvey said.

The PermaShrink building will require expansion of the water and sewer system in the park, said James Heckle, president and CEO for the York County National Gas Authority. The expansion is being funded through a combination of state, local and private funding, he said. The additional water and sewer capacity will help the authority market the park, he said.

Sprouse said about 75 acres are available for development.