Editor’s note: The Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Southeast, based in Miami, publishes a monthly interview spotlighting members of its newly established Georgia chapter, which seeks to showcase and grow business ties between the country and the state that already is home to more than 60 Italian firms.
The chamber caught up with Luca Di Benedetto, CEO at Atex Inc., to discuss the rising demand in nonwoven material manufacturing during COVID-19 as they produce more face masks, PPE materials and more. The interview has been edited for length and clarity and republished with permission.
IACCSE: Please tell us a little bit about Atex Inc.
Mr. Di Benedetto: ATEX is a leading manufacturer of spunbond polypropylene, melt-blown and composite nonwovens for a variety of markets and applications. Founded in 1993 in Italy, the ATEX group has a management team with extensive experience in nonwovens technology and specialty performance fabrics.
Atex Inc. U.S.A. was incorporated in 1999 and it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Atex Holding in Milan, Italy.
The ATEX group has manufacturing facilities in Europe (Milan) and in North America (Georgia).
IACCSE: Who are your main competitors and what makes you unique?
Mr. Di Benedetto: ATEX offers a variety of nonwovens and composite nonwovens to a wide range of converters and manufacturers. We use unique equipment technology developed internally by our engineers throughout years of manufacturing experience. We are very customer-oriented and are capable of consistently offering our partners new products and often unexplored solutions to their needs.
Nonwoven is a capital-intensive industry and our competitors are mainly large multinational companies. We compete with American nonwoven producers but also with overseas producers, mainly from Asia.
We are now in a unique historical phase. With the Covid-19 crisis, the demand for nonwovens has exploded worldwide and many country governments have stopped their nonwoven exportations. Global nonwoven demand is now higher than global capacity — a unique situation for our industry, typically a mature and very competitive industry.
IACCSE: How was the business started and when did you arrive in Georgia?
Mr. Di Benedetto: ATEX, Inc. started production in Gainesville, Ga., in July 2000 to better serve our U.S. customers. We visited several states and counties before meeting with Georgia and the Hall County Chamber of Commerce representatives.
At that time, our main customer was located in North Carolina and the Southeast was our target location. The state of Georgia and Hall County offered good incentive packages for startup companies.
IACCSE: Are there any business numbers that you would like to share with us?
Mr. Di Benedetto: The Atex Group employs about 80 personnel in the USA and 70 in Italy. ATEX, Inc. U.S.A. sales are approximately $40 million.
IACCSE: What was your experience with COVID-19?
Mr. Di Benedetto: The Atex Group strongly participates in the Covid-19 fight!
Our nonwoven products are key components for face masks (protective, surgical, N95, respirators), disinfectant wipes, personal protective equipment (PPE), and generally speaking for medical and hygiene applications. We are committed to supplying the largest USA PPE manufacturers from our USA location and European PPE manufacturers from our Italian location.
We are a 24/7 operation and it is extremely important in this COVID-19 emergency to maintain our manufacturing capabilities at full capacity. It has been a challenge especially during the months of June, July, and the beginning of August when Covid-19 cases exploded in this area. With the introduction of all possible safety and preventive measures, we have been able to fulfill our commitments to customers and government agencies.
2600 West Park Drive
Gainesville, GA 30504
General inquires: firstname.lastname@example.org