Austrian-based Lenzing Group is investing $293 million to expand its plant in Axis into the largest of its kind in the world, creating 163 new jobs.
Lenzing and Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce officials announced the plans this morning.
The plant will ramp up production of Tencel, a rayon-like fiber made from wood.
“The expansion will more than double current Tencel production in Axis, making it the largest production site in the world with a total capacity of 140,000 tons annually,” said Kevin Allen, site manager for Lenzing. “We are very proud to have in Axis the first-generation production site and now the most advanced, state-of-the-art facility in the same location.”
Plans are to have the plant operating in 2019.
“This expansion in Tencel fiber capacity represents a unique milestone in the history of the Axis facility and for the Lenzing Group,” said Robert van de Kerkhof, chief commercial officer for Lenzing. “The investment of $293 million is part of our strategic growth program sCoreTEN announced a year ago. It underscores our commitment to all customers and consumers who want to make a positive impact as our Tencel fiber is recognized as world’s most sustainable botanic fiber for fashion and nonwoven products.”
Lenzing’s investment in Alabama is a sign of the company’s confidence in the state’s workforce and economy, according to Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield.
“Austria’s Lenzing is an innovative manufacturer with a longtime presence in Mobile County, Alabama, the home of its only U.S. production facility,” Canfield said. “This significant new investment in its Mobile County operation will not only create jobs but also strengthen the partnership we have forged together over the years.”
The project speaks to the diversity of manufacturing in the Mobile area.
“This project is significant for Mobile County because it represents the fruits of our labor in expanding our manufacturing sector,” said Merceria Ludgood, president of the Mobile County Commission.
“The county has experienced a 31 percent boost in manufacturing from 2010 to 2015,” said Ludgood, whose district includes Axis. “Our region is a federally designated manufacturing community. Our high schools and community colleges offer specialized advanced manufacturing training. This announcement means jobs will be available right here in our county, keeping our best and brightest right here at home.”
Mobile’s manufacturing growth earned recognition from the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2014 and 2016.
“This type of foreign direct investment and the addition of these high-wage jobs is yet another example of our manufacturing growth that continues to outpace the national rate,” said Troy Wayman, vice president of economic development for the Mobile Chamber. “The commitment from Lenzing to locate the facility at the Mobile site demonstrates our area’s success in locating large economic development projects.”