Austria-based Rath Group AG has announced it is opening a $9 million brick-making plant in Milledgeville to service the ceramics industry in Georgia and the South.

The 41,000-square-foot plant, Rath’s first North American facility, is to begin operations Feb. 1. It is to employ 20 people in the next two years.

“All of Rath’s factories are in Europe, but we’ve generated enough sales in the U.S., and with the difficulty of transporting heavy bricks and materials, we made the decision to manufacture in the states,” Rath spokesperson Marty Hoss told GlobalAtlanta.

Mr. Hoss said the company chose Milledgeville for its proximity to Georgia kaolin, one of the raw materials used to make various types of bricks, porcelain and other refractory, or high temperature, ceramics.

He added that Milledgeville’s closeness to the port of Savannah will allow the company to ship in raw materials from Brazil, China, South Africa and possibly Europe. Most of Rath’s customers in the United States are located in the South, from the Atlantic coast to western Texas, so middle Georgia was a good location. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was also a draw for Rath executives who will be traveling back and forth from Europe, Mr. Hoss said.

The company’s decision to locate in Georgia, rather than Alabama, was facilitated by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, its European trade office, and the Georgia Allies, a group of representatives from several of the state’s most prominent companies, said Chris Clark, the department’s deputy commissioner of global commerce.

He told GlobalAtlanta that Georgia’s European office head, Antje Abshoff, met with Ernst Rath, the Rath Group’s CEO, in Vienna. Two weeks later, the Georgia Allies went to meet Dr. Rath as well, sealing the deal. The fact that there was already an appropriate, vacant building in Milledgeville helped confirm the venture, Mr. Clark said. An official announcement was made at a recent dinner held at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.

Mr. Clark said that Rath has already decided to add a second kiln to their operations upon opening in February.

The Milledgeville plant is to be named Rath Refractories Inc. under the Wilmington, Del.-based holding company, Rath USA Inc. The Vienna-based Rath Group AG began in 1891 as a porcelain factory. The company now manufactures bricks, insulating bricks, refractory materials, aluminum silica and aluminum oxide fibers.

Rath has a presence in 11 locations in Europe, six in Asia, four in the Middle East and one in Australia.

Contact Mr. Hoss for more information about Rath at (440) 526-3959 or Contact the Georgia Department of Economic Development at (404) 962-4078. Visit