DuPont this week dedicated a $500 million expansion of a South Carolina plant that will boost the company’s production of Kevlar, a fiber used in everything from tires and fiber optic cable to bulletproof vests and combat helmets.
The company said the new plant about 30 miles from Charleston combined with a recent $50 million expansion of a plant in Richmond, VA will increase production by about 25 percent. Over the next two years, the company plans other improvements to increase Kevlar productivity by a total of 40 percent.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hailed the expansion at DuPont’s Cooper River Plant that opened in 1972 and makes Hytrel, a flexible plastic. The $500 million investment is among the larger single industrial investments in state history.
Haley said the state is proud of its first responders and its military that use protective vests made of Kevlar.
“To have this plant that goes the extra mile to save jobs … that’s something we’re proud of in South Carolina,” she said. “This plant is in South Carolina because the cost of doing business is low, our work force is dedicated and our work force is loyal.
She gave a South Carolina flag to DuPont chair and CEO Ellen Kullman and other company officials.
The DuPont plant had 60 workers when the expansion was announced and is adding about 135 new employees. There were 800 additional jobs during construction.
Kullman said the plant expansion is a testament to the popularity of Kevlar, which was developed four decades ago.
“Basically we built this during the global financial crisis,” she said. “This plant will allow us to grow our leadership position by growing Kevlar.”
She told reporters later that demand for Kevlar comes from a lot of different industries “and we knew that the financial crisis would not last forever. We take a long-term view and we decided to continue the project because this is the most advanced technology in that product area. It’s important to meet our customers’ needs globally and we needed additional capacity to do that.”
The company said that 1 billion tires are produced annually for the automotive and aerospace industry. It said that with the growth of broadband connections, the fiber optic cable industry is growing 10 percent a year in the United States and 15 percent a year in Asia.