Raising a glass to success, Valdosta, Lowndes County continues to celebrate its latest industry win.
Governor Brian Kemp joined local and state business leaders for the symbolic turning of the dirt ceremony and announcement that Arglass Yamamura, LLC, will create more than 150 jobs and invest $123 million to build its first U.S. glass container manufacturing plant in Lowndes County.
“With our highly-trained workforce, unmatched logistics network, and pro-business climate, the Peach State has solidified its reputation as a top competitor for manufacturing investment in recent years,” says Gov. Kemp. “Without question, this facility will generate exciting opportunities for hardworking Georgians throughout the region, and we are grateful that Arglass Yamamura chose to begin operations in Georgia.”
A joint venture between Cambium, a private merchant bank, and Nihon Yamamura, a leading Japanese glass manufacturer, the Valdosta facility will produce specialized glass containers used primarily in the spirits, wine, and the food and beverage industry.
Construction, which began in August 2019, continues to move forward at a rapid pace. Scheduled to be completed by October, Arglass officials anticipate production on the first sellable glass containers by the end of 2020.
Traditionally, U.S. glass container manufacturers are focused on large volume production. As a result, customers with smaller and more diversified product lines have limited options, and often rely on imports from Europe and China.
“We believe there is a large untapped potential in the U.S. consumer market for glass containers,” says José de Diego Arozamena, CEO of Arglass Yamamura. “Our goal is to help more food and beverage producers choose glass as a healthy, safe, and environmentally responsible material that can, at the same time, be customized, dynamic, colorful, and cost-competitive.”
Arozamena says today there are more food and beverage product options available, especially within the wine and spirits industry. “The craft beer and wine markets have expanded, and this has created the need for more specialty bottles,” which may require smaller quantities produced.
While the craft of glass manufacturing has been in existence for centuries, the construction of a new facility is rare.
“Our state-of-the-art glass plant is not only new in Georgia but the entire country,” says Arozamena. “It has been about 60 years since a glass container manufacturing plant was built east of the Mississippi, and almost 30 years in the entire U.S.”
A Perfect Fit
Georgia’s pro-business environment was a leading factor in recruiting Arglass Yamamura, which considered locations throughout the Southeast region.
“The sites were evaluated based on location, transportation access, workforce, energy cost, and quality of life,” says Arozamena. “Based on all these factors, the scoring put Valdosta on top.”
Located equal distance between Atlanta and Orlando, Lowndes County sits on Interstate 75 and is easily accessible to Interstate 10, and multiple state highways. The county’s logistical network also includes rail service provided by Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads.
“Having the rail infrastructure and being close to two interstates for quick access is critical,” says Arozamena. “For both our customers and suppliers. The rail will be used mostly for bringing in the raw materials, which include soda ash and sand. The finished bottles will go out primarily by trucks.”
When completed, the Arglass plant will utilize the glass manufacturing industry’s most advanced technology, including robotics and advanced manufacturing.
“Most of our employees will go to Europe for several months of training,” says Arozamena. “We are looking for people with the ability to learn a new skill, have a positive attitude, and strong desire to succeed with us in the glass industry.”
Having Valdosta State University and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College in the region provides Arlgass and other companies with an accessible and trainable workforce.
“When we talk about our workforce, we include 30 to 60 miles out,” says Andrea Schruijer, executive director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority. “Our labor force analysis includes surrounding communities. Also, it’s important what our colleges and technical schools, as well as high schools, are teaching and how they are preparing students with marketable skills to enter the workforce.”
From the first request for information to multiple site visits, Schruijer says, “The real story with the Arlgass project is how Lowndes County and all the different players stepped-up and worked together to overcome all the obstacles and mitigate any risks.”
Similar to a puzzle, all the pieces had to fit perfectly to bring Arglass to Lowndes County.
“We performed several environmental tests to make sure the proposed site could accommodate this type of industry,” says Schruijer, who worked on the Arglass project for more than four years. “For instance, we had to make sure the land could hold the weight of a facility this big.”
Schruijer explained that Arglass has a critical need for multiple power sources, including electrical and natural gas.
“Once they light the furnace, it takes up to 30 days to reach the required temperature,” she says. “Then it can’t go out; the furnace has to run seven days a week, 24 hours a day, all year.”
When completed, Arglass will join South Georgia’s diverse industry mix. With a history of agriculture production and food processing, the region also serves as a hub for advanced manufacturing and warehouse distribution services.
“I am extremely pleased to welcome Arglass Yamamura to Lowndes County and into our diverse group of industries. Creating quality jobs for our residents is a top priority for local officials. We know that Arglass Yamamura is committed to outstanding corporate citizenship as it becomes a major employer in our community.” –Bill Slaughter, chairman of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners