Jim Blair, the managing director of Navigator Consulting LLC, uses a lot of data in helping his clients but he hasn’t forgotten the importance of “soft skills.” When J.B. Fisher, president and general manager of a Swiss bottle cap manufacturer, asked him to find the best Southeast location for a greenfield plant they took off on what Mr. Blair termed “a windshield tour” stopping in as many as 40 to 50 communities, sometimes for only 30 minutes.
“We were in a hurry,” Mr. Fisher said. “We had a timeframe. We wanted to find the place in four months so we wouldn’t miss next year’s spring and summer seasons when the volumes for drinks really picks up. We want to hit that time just right.”
Mr. Fisher told Global Atlanta their tour included five states as Mr. Fisher evaluated what would be the Swiss company’s first facility in the U.S. “This was a unique format,” he added. “We had never done this before.”
“We knew that the Southeast would be key to our business,” he said. A native of central Ohio with years of managerial experience in Michigan, he first defined the Southeast rather loosely as stretching from Texas to the Mid- Atlantic States.
Though he applied the most expansive definition of the Southeast, he knew of the critical importance of the area to his company’s business, which is making thermoplastic caps or what are termed in the industry as “closures” because it includes the majority of its bottler and packaging partners. “It’s where most of the volume in the U.S. seems to be located,” he added.
For his part, Mr. Blair wanted him to meet local officials and businesspeople in each prospective location so he could get a feel for the different communities. That’s easier for Mr. Blair to arrange than for most economic developers because he’s been pushing development in the region for so long – that is for more than 30 years.
He was director of Georgia’s European Office in Brussels for 18 years with additional responsibilities as director of the state’s foreign direct investment program and its international offices.
Meanwhile Mr. Fisher said that he was primarily focused at the time on a number critical factors such as the proximity of the company’s clients, transportation infrastructure, the community’s prospective labor market and energy costs. As the tour continued, however, he realized that the amenities of each community also would play an important role in determining where future employees would be comfortable living.
“I’m a fan of data and they gave me lots of it,” Mr. Fisher added. “We got a picture of the different environments, and he eventually selected a site in Newnan which he said was “ideal” just 40 miles southwest of Atlanta and close to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“I immediately felt this is a place I’d like to be,” he said. “I could live here. Though I have lived in Georgia before I had no appreciation for the extent of the European and Asian businesses that are here or that there was so much foreign investment all over the Southeast.”
Mr. Blair was quick to add that because of his former role working for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, his company is occasionally criticized for being Georgia-centric. “But we really gave a fair shake to other communities and Opelika, Ala., and Oconee across the state line in South Carolina also were very attractive for this project.
In addition to Newnan’s welcoming outreach, he added that the cost of electricity played an important factor in the decision of where to build the Corvalia Closures USA Inc. plant, a company whose founder Romeo Corvaglia originally was an artist and a sculptor.
Mr. Corvaglia launched his company, Corvaglia Development, in Switzerland, in 1991 after developing the molds with which to make one-piece-closures of plastic for PET(polyethylene terephthalate)-beverage bottles.
Mr. Fisher said that the U.S. market is the largest in the world for the company’s caps and closures, and he estimated that the annual demand for them was as large as 100 billion. To supply the global demand, Corvaglia Development quickly became the Corvaglia Group with advanced manufacturing plants in Eschlikon, Switzerland and Ixthlahuaca, Mexico.
It’s four profit and loss lines, he added, are Swiss cap products, Mexico cap products, U.S. cap products, and the specialized molds created in Switzerland.
The company’s flexibility in creating proprietary molds for a wide range of bottles has been responsible for the company’s success, he added, citing its integrated processing chain from the creation of cap solutions to fitting them on a variety of bottle styles. He also underscored the importance of its digital printing capabilities enabling the company to manufacture caps in six different colors.
The market for its caps and closures includes carbonated soft drinks and bottled water, still bottled water, and what it calls “sensitive” drinks such a juices, teas and favored teas as well as sports and energy drinks.
Mr. Fisher already has hired a director of operations who will be in charge of the design and development of the $25 million, 104,000 square-foot plant to be built on 14 acres in the Coweta Industrial Park, off Hwy. 154 by the end of the year.
He also has hired locally a director of finance and administration. Once the plant is built, he will be looking for personnel who are familiar with advanced manufacturing techniques and operating industrial digital computers required by the machinery that will be imported from Europe.
He said that once the plant is ramped up by the end of four or five years he will have from 40 to 50 employees working at the facility who will receive some of their training in Europe.
Mr. Blair said that employees will be coming from local technical schools and universities and may even include returned veterans.
On June 20, in the 19th event in Global Atlanta’s Consular Conversations Series, Trevor Williams, the news service’s managing editor, will be interviewing the Consul General of Switzerland in Atlanta, Mr. Peter Zimmerli.
To learn more about the Corvaglia Group, click here.
For more informaton about Navigator Consulting, click here.