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Posted: August 20, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Marshall tours Fibervisions plant

U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Macon) visited Fibervisions Wednesday morning to learn about its business model, tour its facilities and ask if he could help.

Fibervisions is the global leader in developing, manufacturing and marketing polyolefin staple fibers for nonwoven applications, according to its website. These synthetic fibers are used in a wide variety of applications, including disposable baby diapers, wet wipes, interior car paneling and concrete reinforcement, said Covington Plant Manager Scott Powell.

CEO Steven M. Wood said the fibers require highly-technical manufacturing processes, evidenced by the fact they’re thinner than a human hair, despite the fact each fiber is composed of two distinct polymers.

Wood said the company is continuing to invest heavily in researching new innovations in fibers, studying different ways to manipulate fibers physically and chemically. The company hopes to add new production lines in the near future.

Marshall told company executives he would be happy to help any way he could.

Although the Fibervision plant has been in Covington since 1965, the name has not. Many Covington residents are more familiar with the prior owner, Hercules. The Hercules Powder Company was first formed in the late 1800s and produced both gunpowder and powder for dynamite. The company was purchased by DuPont, but again became independent in 1912, when DuPont was divided into three companies by the U.S. government antitrust action, according to various websites.

Hercules developed a fibers division in the 1960s, and it began producing staple and filament fibers, primarily for the furnishings and carpet markets, according to fibervisions.com. The FiberVisions subsidiary company was created in 1998 through a joint venture with a Danish company. The subsidiary was sold in 2006 to Snow Phipps Group, a private equity firm based in New York City.

Powell said the Covington plant employs just over 200 workers, the majority of whom are dedicated to research and development. The plant runs 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

A second plant was built in Covington in 1981, at a size of 207,000 square feet. The original plant is more than 531,000 square feet. Powell said the company has continued to reinvest even during the economic downturn. In April 2008, the company announced an $18 million expansion, which added 40 jobs.

According to a previous story in The News, Powell said the Covington plant was selected for the expansion because of preexisting facility space that has remained empty since the 1980s when the plant employed 1,200 people.

The company’s headquarters are in Duluth, and it has a plant in Athens. Internationally, the company has sites in Argentina, China and Denmark and has about 550 employees worldwide.

Powell said the company is dedicated to safety and hasn’t had an OSHA recordable injury in three years. He said the plant’s location is also steeped in history, standing next to the ground where Gen. William T. Sherman camped during the Civil War.

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