By NICOLE CARTRETTE Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 3:00 am
MaXPro Manufacturing LLC signed papers yesterday at BB&T in Whiteville closing on the purchase of the Committee of 100’s shell building located across from Southeast Regional Industrial Park along Chadbourn Highway.
The start-up firm will specialize in manufacturing window films for a variety of applications, including automobile window tint, energy efficient window films for office buildings, industrial uses and other such applications.
MaXPro President Joseph Cobbe, of Wilmington, is a semi-retired CPA who has been a founder of two other window film-manufacturing companies in 1990 and 2000. Both were later sold.
“Those companies we started still exist today right where we started them and have expanded,” Cobbe said. “I was involved merely as getting a group of investors together.”
Commonwealth Laminate Coating of Martinsville, Va. recently announced yet another expansion, Cobbe said. The Martinsville native moved to Wilmington five years ago to retire.
“It’s an interest industry,” said Cobbe, who enjoys building companies and has not yet been lured into full retirement.
Cobbe said window films come in an array of colors, thicknesses and have variety of purposes.
Safety films applied to windows prevent glass from flying through the air in the event of an incident.
“We have films for storefronts to keep bricks from sending glass across the floor,” Cobbe said.
It is a measure that many federal buildings and offices began taking after the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, Lanier said.
“They even make some film that can stop a bullet if layered enough,” Lanier said.
The company is expecting to invest about $5 million total in equipment, the building and upgrades, Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier said.
Other films block UV rays and prevent fading of carpets and interiors. Some are used for energy conservation purposes.
Cobbe said the company looked in Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender and surrounding areas for a suitable location.
The Columbus County shell building was ultimately their pick.
“It was the building,” Cobbe said. “It is a shell building so we can start from scratch and it was big enough. It just really suited our needs.”
Cobbe said MaXPro hopes to start production no later than March of 2013.
The firm will employ about 17 and is excited about its close proximity to Southeastern Community College and training programs offered there.
The positions will be good-paying jobs, according to officials, that require at least a high school diploma, but a few years of college in addition, are preferred, Cobbe said.
“It requires knowledge of computers,” Cobbe said, adding that the window film industry is not one that will employ hundreds of people but will provide steady, long-term jobs.
“You do not have to worry about it being outsourced to Mexico or China for cheap labor,” Cobbe said.
Machines produce as much as 150 feet of product a minute, Cobbe said.
Internationally the demand for the film is growing and as society focuses more on energy efficiency and being “green” the demand rises, Cobbe said.
Lanier said the close location to the Port of Wilmington, affordability of the property and other benefits were key factors in the company’s decision to locate to Columbus County.
“There is a huge market for window films internationally,” Lanier said. “We had a property that fit their needs.”
The event marked the end to a 12-year search for buyers of the fourth shell building constructed by the non-profit aiming at boosting economic development in the county.
“This is a big deal it’s been a long time coming,” County Manager Bill Clark said.
“We are pleased to announce the sell of the shell building,” said Jeff Etheridge, BB&T southeastern regional bank president.
BB&T and the former Waccamaw Bank (now owned by First Community Bank) were both lienholders on the property that at one time was valued at roughly $1 million.
“We are thrilled by the prospects represented by this acquisition and look forward to an increase in jobs and further vitality for the park,” Etheridge, who also serves as chairman of the Columbus County Committee of 100, said. “We wish this new company much success in their venture.”
Both banks are taking a loss on the sale, officials say.
Lanier said N.C. Southeast, a regional economic development engine, played major role along with the N.C. Department of Commerce in bring the company here.
Lanier credits Etheridge for “brokering” the deal.
“We need the jobs and needed to get the building in use,” Lanier said.
Etheridge said Lanier played a key role in attracting the company.
Officials say the firm will invest about $5 million in the facility, equipment, upgrades and start-up.
A project of the Committee of 100, the shell building, listed at $540,000, has been vacant since its completion 12 years ago and followed other successful building projects like the former shell building that now houses Top Tobacco of Lake Waccamaw.