Meredian going into old AF& plant

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Meredian Inc. will lease the old American Fibers and Yarns plant at the Decatur County Industrial Park, after the county commissioners approved the deal at their Tuesday meeting.

On Thursday, the Development Authority is scheduled to OK the lease, and company representatives are scheduled to sign a contract on Friday, said Development Authority Executive Director Rick McCaskill.

Meredian is a privately-held Bainbridge corporation that is working with biopolymer technology to manufacture raw materials that will be used in a wide array of petroleum-free, biodegradable products.

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The company is expected to invest $30 million in new equipment and infrastructure in the old 185,000-square-foot building. In addition, DaniMer Scientific LLC, a sister company of Meredian, is investing $6 million in its new 18,750-square-foot building located on U.S. 27 North.

The county is also building a new road into the plant from the main entrance road of the industrial park.

The lease agreement would be $1.5 million over a 10-year period, with an option to purchase the building.

During the first two years, the company is expected to create 40 jobs, and “It starts jumping up a lot after that,” McCaskill said.

“This is a really big project,” McCaskill said. “It was a very competitive project.”

Despite the loss of approximately 200 jobs when American Fibers and Yarns closed in the fall of 2008, McCaskill said the now-empty building presented an opportunity for the Development Authority to convince Meredian to locate its operations in Bainbridge.

If Bainbridge hadn’t had the building, many other communities would have perhaps successfully recruited Meredian to locate their operations elsewhere.

Meredian and DaniMer

Meredian formed in 2007 by the same group who formed DaniMer in 2004.

DaniMer produces high-value, engineered polymers that are renewable-based and biodegradable for use in a wide range of applications, including single-use food service articles such as beverage cups, food packaging materials such as films, coatings and laminates, as well as products used in agriculture and horticulture end-use applications.

Meredian acquired an extensive intellectual property portfolio from Proctor & Gamble Company in 2007 relating to Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) technology.

Proctor & Gamble developed the technology through more than a decade of research, resulting in a highly functional and cost-effective material, which will be produced commercially by Meredian.

Meredian will use the technology to manufacture new biopolymers using renewable resources, further reducing the global dependence on petroleum products in the production of plastics.

McCaskill said Meredian will manufacture the raw material that their customers will convert into cups, bags and whatever else. Meredian said it plans to produce more than 600 million pounds of biopolymers at some point in the future.

Since the old American Fibers & Yarns building may be more space than Meredian will use, McCaskill said there is a possibility that another company can relocate there and manufacture its products based on the biopolymers produced by Meredian.

McCaskill said the jobs will be good-paying jobs with benefits. He also categorized the atmosphere at DaniMer as that of Nike when it started up.

“It’s an exciting product and it’s easy to get fired up about it and getting it done,” McCaskill said. “They are genuinely excited about what they are doing.”