When it comes to expanding their businesses, the Schmidt and Westhoff families don’t mind crossing national boundaries to go where the action is. The success of their company Kraiburg TPE USA in Gwinnett County made them keen to open a facility for Gezolan LP in the county as well.
Kraiburg TPE and Gezolan are considered sister companies although they produce different sorts of rubber products and are headquartered in different countries — Kraiburg in Waldkraiburg, Germany, and Gezolan in Dagmersellen, Switzerland, which Kraiburg acquired in the late 1960s.
Kraiburg, known throughout Europe for holding at least 60 percent of the rubber products market, first opened a sales office in Gwinnett’s Duluth in 1996 and in 2016 moved its operations in the county to Buford to expand its manufacturing operation of rubber compounds and polymers.
Nick Massino, Gwinnett’s chief development officer, told Global Atlanta that Kraiburg’s success prompted a delegation from the county and the state’s Department of Economic Development to visit Waldraiburg, 37 miles east of Munich, Germany, in an effort to attract more of the family held businesses to the county. The result of that mission is the recent opening of the Gezolan plant, also in Buford.
Kraiburg Holding GmbH & Co., which owns both Kraiburg TPE and Gezolan, traces its origins to 1947 when Friedrich Schmidt began producing rubber compounds and launched a privately-held company known for its wide range of applications in the automotive industry, machine construction, food production, oil and gas. His efforts were joined by those of the Westhoff family. Today the families have fourth generation descendants of the founders involved in its management.
Kraiburg currently has a presence in Asia, Europe and the Americas known for its wide range of applications in the automotive industry, machine construction, food production, oil and gas.development and other sectors dependent on moulded rubber components. It has more than 2,200 employees working in its nine divisions with annual revenues of more than $619 million from nine divisions.
Its subsidiary Kraiburg TPE was founded in 1985 and in addition to its Buford plant has a production facility in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and branches in Hong Kong; Shanghai; and Mumbai, India. Kraiburg TPE has more than 550 worldwide employees, and generates annual sales of some $207 million.
Founded in 1968 Gezolan LP has customers in more than 60 countries, makes synthetic rubber-like granules that provide durable surfaces for a wide variety of uses ranging from playgrounds to track and field venues.
Frost & Sullivan, a global market research and consulting firm, honored Kraiburg TPE in 2015 with its leadership award for customer value, products and service. The following year the company moved into a new facility in Buford from where it supplies its customers nationwide and in Central and South America.
It’s no surprise given its family ties to Kraiburg that Gezolan has set up its operations near Kraiburg’s facility in Buford’s Hamilton Mill Business Park where it moved primarily due to the cost of land and proximity to the interstate. Gezolan currently is located in a 60,000 square-foot facility that it is leasing from IDI Gazeley where it will manufacture its synthetic rubber-like granules. The facility also is to house the operations sales and marketing, product development and controlling and IT departments.
Doug Shumake, the plant manager, told Global Atlanta that if he opens the front door of his facility he can see the back door of its sister company Kraiburg TPE. Gezolan already has hired 15 employees and Mr. Shumake anticipates that by the end of the year he will have about doubled their number including material handlers and production managers.
Grezolan, he added, invested $1 million in environmental controls to guarantee that the facility would not contaminate the surrounding area with the air pollution of “a rubber smell.” He also said that the plant is adapting new manufacturing processes that will provide it with greater flexibility and anticipates producing 7,000 tons of its granules a year.
During the March 6 ceremony for Gezolan’s expansion, company CEO Josep Roger, credited the county’s communication infrastructure, its logistic resources and workforce availability as reasons for the move to Buford. He also pointed to Kraiburg’s success.
Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash was equally upbeat saying that the county’s “advantageous location, ability to develop and foster talented workforce and pro-business climate” were responsible for Gwinnett’s ability to attract companies seeking to expand their operations.
Gwinnett County, however, is not the only beneficiary of investment by Swiss companies in the region. As recently as February, Corvaglia Group, a Swiss supplier to the beverage industry announced that it would build a new manufacturing facility in Newnan, approximately 69 miles to the southwest of Buford.
The new facility is to complement existing operations in Eschlikon, Switzerland and Lxthlahuaca, Mexico, and represents an investment of $25 million to Coweta County.
“With the recent announcement from these two Swiss based companies to locate a combined $37 million in investment into building manufacturing operations here,” Kimberly Roth Schulman, Switzerland’s trade commissioner at the Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, told Global Atlanta citing the Southeast’s advantages of a lower cost of living than elsewhere in the U.S., the cheaper cost of doing business, a skilled labor force and proximity to the airport, and port and logistic operations.
“Coraglia and Gezolan will be added to the list of over 40 Swiss companies which have U.S. operations in the state of Georgia spanning across various industry sectors,” she added.