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International companies find Charlotte USA a neighborly place to do business


Solaris VP Sales, North America, Bill Haras checks out the steel tubing that ends up in products such as satellite dishes.

By Gina Carroll Howard - 704-347-6735
US Airways Magazine

As Denis Boulais searched for a U.S. manufacturing location, the president and CEO of Solaris In­dustries Inc. discovered not only a com­patible culture, but also a new use for the Montreal-based company’s steel tubing: carports.

The open-sided shelters are omni­present in the South, but nonexistentin colder Canadian climates. In the Charlotte region, Boulais found not only a new market for Solaris’s prod­ucts, but a vibrant region near existing customers, a pro-business climate, nonstop air service to Montreal, and a strong, cooperative work ethic — not to mention a gracious Southern lifestyle.

“We were very impressed with the whole culture,” Boulais explains. “In Montreal, we’re used to doing business over dinner, developing personal rela­tionships, and forming partnerships. That’s what we did during our searchin the Charlotte region.”

With more than 100 customers already, the Kings Mountain, N.C.,site has proven to be an inspired choice for Solaris, which in just two years is already half the size of its Canadian parent company.

Home to more than 900 interna­tional firms, Charlotte USA has proven equally serendipitous for Providência USA. In January 2011, as Providência CEO Herminio Freitas cut the ribbon at its $80 million Statesville, N.C., plant, he announced a planned$60 million expansion at the facility.

The Brazilian company sees the Statesville operation — its first in North America — as key to supplying its current customers in the North American Free Trade Agreementregion. As the population ages, the disposable diaper and medical markets are expected to grow. Freitas believes those products manufactured withthe spunbond-fabric technology that Providência uses will grow even faster than other nonwovens.

After a rigorous comparison of12 Southeastern states, Providência selected Iredell County for its expert workforce; US Airways’ daily nonstop flights from Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro; a “first-class” rail/road/air infrastruc­ture; community, regional, and state support; and competitive electricity costs — a critical operating component.

Gene Konczal, director of opera­tions in Statesville, says that accurately evaluating competing locations was challenging. Some initially attractive sites were not viable long-term. In the final cost/benefit analysis, the Charlotte region rose above the rest.

“Our suggestion to other Brazilian companies looking to expand to North America would be to take a serious look at the Charlotte region,” Konczal insists.

Boulais agrees. “It has major-league sports, culture, and great restaurants. We had no trouble attracting managers, and when we had a few start-up hic­cups, everyone rolled up their sleeves and said, ‘Let’s get the job done.’”

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