published Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Belgian flooring giant with North Georgia headquarters announces 2nd U.S. vinyl plant

IVC Group CEO Jan Vergote shows plans for his company's vinyl flooring manufacturing plant that was built at Whitfield County's new industrial park in  2011.
IVC Group CEO Jan Vergote shows plans for his company's vinyl flooring manufacturing plant that was built at Whitfield County's new industrial park in 2011.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Belgian flooring manufacturer IVC says it will build a new $80 million luxury vinyl flooring plant in the U.S., which when finished in early 2015 will boast the largest capacity of any such plant in North America.

But though the company announced in a news release that the plant will create 200 jobs, IVC doesn't know where, exactly, those jobs will be created, or what area of the country will house the proposed 300,000-square-foot facility.

That's because multiple cities are currently bidding for IVC to build its plant in their backyard, including Northwest Georgia, where IVC opened its sheet vinyl plant and U.S. headquarters in 2011.

"Like buying a house or any other complex decision, multiple variables go into it," said Brian Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. "Anything from market conditions, supplier conditions and transportation network, everything."

North Georgia is the traditional home of flooring production in the U.S., and locating the plant there would take advantage of the built-in transportation network and pre-trained work force, Anderson said. But he acknowledged that IVC may be under pressure to consider richer pots of incentives and tax credits dangled by other municipalities.

"I feel confident they'll look at Northwest Georgia pretty closely, but they've got to make the decision on the right site, the right access to I-75, and all the things that they considered for plant No. 1," Anderson said.

IVC didn't address the ongoing bidding war for its new plant. But Xavier Steyaert, co-CEO of IVC US, said the company was confident that it could repeat the success of its existing U.S. plant, which recently expanded to a fourth shift.

"Just as we proved with fiberglass sheet vinyl, we will again demonstrate with LVT our capability to deploy state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, combine it with operational excellence and create more American jobs," Steyaert said.

Demand for IVC's vinyl flooring product has continued to grow in line with IVC's own expansion. After building its U.S. sheet vinyl plant in 2011, the company in 2012 built a luxury vinyl plank and tile plant in Belgium to supply all its customers around the world, and to replace production in the far east. A third new plant in as many years is now necessary to meet demand, said Jan Vergote, CEO of IVC Group, which boasts sales of about $400 million per year.

"Following the success of our LVT investment in Belgium, the decision to move forward with another major LVT investment for North America underscores IVC Group's position in leading this category from both sides of the Atlantic," Vergote said. "It also underscores our confidence in the North American market."

The company sold $100 million of its Dalton, Ga.-produced sheet vinyl in 2011, capturing double-digit percentages of the North American market, the company said at the time. The company employs about 200 workers in four shifts at its existing plant, which can produce up to 1,000 rolls of vinyl per day.

Adding luxury vinyl plank and tile flooring will further increase the company's penetration into the U.S., which just a few years ago was negligable. The company's luxury vinyl products generate high profit margins, which Paul Murfin, the other co-CEO of IVC US, expects to entice distributors to push the company's products.

"By widening the breadth of our product porftolio made in-house and in the U.S., it will allow our distributor and retail partners to further deepen their relationship with IVC US," Murfin said.

IVC plans to announce the exact location of its plant in the near future, said a spokesperson.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith, esmith@timesfreepress.com, or 423-757-6315.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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