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CEO: Industry makes history

Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board Chairman Lee Brown, Melissa Britton, Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board Executive Director Tyler Engle, PlastiExports TN Director J.P. Metcalf, Representative John Holsclaw, Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, Senator Rusty Crowe, Governor Bill Lee, PlastiExports CEO Baldwin Britton, Alejandro Ramos, TNECD Northeast Regional Director Lynn Tully and TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe at the ribbon cutting for PlastiExports on Tuesday, Sept. 8. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Governor Bill Lee was in town on Sept. 8 to officially welcome a new industry to Erwin.

PlastiExports is investing nearly $7 million into the former home of Regal Beloit. It was announced in October 2019 that Regal Beloit would close its doors in Erwin by September 2020. PlastiExports’ $7 million investment will create 115 jobs by 2025, according to PlastiExports TN, LLC Operations Director J.P. Metcalf.

Lee took a tour of the updated facility and then spoke to a large socially-distanced crowd that included several region officials and organizational leaders including State Senator Rusty Crowe, Rep. John Holsclaw, Unicoi Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board Representatives Lee Brown and Tyler Engle, plus many more.

“I have the opportunity to welcome new businesses throughout Tennessee,” Lee said. “Jobs doesn’t just mean economic opportunity; it’s a nice way of saying it changes people’s lives.”

According to Lee, the time is now for businesses to press on.

“It’s a difficult time right now, and everybody has an idea of how to navigate through this but no one really knows,” Lee said. “We will get through the challenges we are currently facing. We have strength for today and hope for tomorrow. We will continue to stay focused on our rural communities and create more life-changing opportunities like these. By doing this, more businesses will come.”

PlastiExports CEO Baldwin Britton was on hand to explain why Erwin was chosen for the first and only U.S. location of PlastiExports.

“Today, history is being made,” Baldwin said. “Today PlastiExports Tennessee is a reality. I had a dream when I started a plastic molding company 25 years ago. We started out making yo-yos and spin tops. Now we are able to expand to do much more. We invested in a plant in China this year and we have been looking at several sites in America for a future home. When I saw this plant, these people, their experience and most importantly their values I was sold. These are the people we want to be a part of our family. The values the people of Unicoi County have are the same as ours. We are not a private equity. We are not here for the money. We are here to leave something behind that future generations will see and be proud of.”

According to Britton, it would be cheaper to set up a plant somewhere else, but that is not PlastiExports focus.

“We ship from Mexico; the cost is cheaper, but the talent in this county is second to none,” Britton said. “Every employee here is my family. We are going to work no matter how long it takes to make this plant a success. We are a part of the community and will do whatever it takes to help bring jobs and other industry back to Unicoi County.”

Lee was impressed with Britton and his enthusiasm and dedication to Unicoi County.

“Never have I stood next to a man that I just met that understands how great this place is and how great the people of Unicoi County are,” Lee said.”We are grateful for you (Britton).”

Engle spoke to The Erwin Record following PlastiExports ribbon cutting to reflect on why companies chose Unicoi County.

“It’s always been a good time to work in Unicoi County,” Engle said. “Today you see what sets us apart. It’s the lower cost of doing business, it’s a low tax climate and we are a business-friendly environment while still protecting the taxpayer. This was a competitive process and when they chose us, we were able to save a lot of jobs and Plastiexports is projecting another 115 jobs in the next five years. Plastiexports and J.P. Metcalf worked so hard to make this happen.”

If you are interested in applying for a job at PlastiExports, there is an application process available at en.plastiexports.net.