Arglass Yamamura LLC, a joint venture between a New York investment firm and a Japanese glass manufacturer, is investing $123 million to build a new plant in south Georgia with the goal of hiring 150 people, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced Thursday.
Site work on the plant in Valdosta is already under way with the startup of the furnace set for the end of next year. The Lowndes County plant will do business under the name Arglass Southeast LLC and should be fully operational by the first quarter of 2021.
Nihon Yamamura Glass Co. Ltd., based in Hyogo prefecture, Japan, will put up 75 percent of the investment for the new venture, with the remainder coming from Cambium, an investment firm headed up by Jose de Diego Arozamena, according to a disclosure filed by Nihon Yamamura (in Japanese).
Mr. Diego, who has experience in the glass segment and sits on the board of a European glass manufacturer, will serve as CEO of the joint venture and subsidiary. The companies will have equal voting rights in the new joint venture.
Nihon Yamamura is a more than century-old glass maker that offers 1,000 different bottle varieties and maintains 40 percent market share in Japan. In recent years the company has shown an appetite to increase its global exposure and diversify away from its current supply bases in Japan, China and Southeast Asia.
After its centennial in 2014, the company launched a new strategic plan: “Towards a Global YAMAMURA: Conveying Yamamura’s Heart and Technology to the World.” Participating in Arglass will provide its first foothold in North America.
Meanwhile, Arglass sees the U.S. as a market ripe for disruption after a wave of industry consolation.
Incumbents have filled their plants with products that allow for long-run productions (i.e: beer), focusing on utilization above all else, leaving customer needs such as emergency batches, shorter runs and customized products, unattended.
The company argues that this has left specialty or small-batch producers, especially in the spirits sector, reliant on imports that raise costs and present logistical challenges. Arglass says that imports of glass containers have almost doubled from 2009-18 to $1.6 billion last year. Imports from China have grown at an annualized rate of of 15.7 percent per year, the company says on its website.
The new, state-of-the-art plant in Valdosta will include investments in machinery that will allow the company to produce shorter runs that can still compete on cost, Arglass said.
The companies will also focus heavily on sustainability, a key tenet of Yamamura’s Japan operations, where it offers lighter glass varieties to cut down on transport costs and CO2 emissions, along with a reusable option marked with a distinctive ‘R’. Yamamura’s Ecology bottle line is made from 90 percent cullet, the crushed glass from recycled sources and scrap that is ready to be remelted.
Yamamura had revenues of 70.25 billion Japanese yen (about $667 million) in 2018, eking out a profit of about 166 million yen, or $1.5 million, during the year.
Mr. Diego praised Georgia and Lowndes County officials for their help in the site-selection process.
“Georgia, specifically the Valdosta region, will allow us to run a very flexible, efficient, and cost-effective manufacturing operation, while remaining close to our customer base in the South and eastern parts of the United States,” he said in the news release, which he also posted on LinkedIn: