Toho Tenax America, a subsidiary of Japan-based chemical giant Teijin, will invest $23 million in their Rockwood, Tennessee, carbon fiber manufacturing facility, it was announced today. The decision, which further solidifies company’s presence in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, marks the second major investment in the Rockwood plant since Toho Tenax bought the Fortafil Fiber plant in 2004 from Netherlands-based Acordis. Toho Tenax’s total investment in retooling and upgrading the plant now stands at nearly $37 million.
The expansion is the second major industrial announcement in Roane County in the past two weeks. Roane County announced on September 24 it will develop with Morgan and Cumberland Counties a 1,100-acre industrial park — Plateau Partnership Park — near Interstate 40 and the Rockwood Municipal Airport. The site is 40 miles east of Knoxville.
Local officials praised Toho Tenax’s decision.
â€œToho Tenax is retooling the plant to stay competitive in the carbon fiber market,â€ said Leslie Henderson, president & CEO of the Roane Alliance. The investment, Henderson said, â€œmeans a significant area employer and active corporate citizen will continue to grow and prosper.â€
Toho Tenax supplies high-quality carbon fiber to various industrial, automotive, aerospace and sporting goods makers. Carbon fiber replaces high-strength steel, aluminum, titanium or glass fibers in applications where reduced weight and greater rigidity are needed. Toho Tenax is the second largest producer of carbon fiber in the United States.
The plant employs 170 workers. Today’s announcement is not expected to affect that number.
â€œThis retooling will put Toho Tenax into a very competitive position in the global carbon fiber market â€“ a market which is growing rapidly,â€ Roane County Industrial Development Board Chairman Steve Kirkham said. â€œIt should solidify the future growth potential of this operation.â€
â€œRoane County is partnering in this effort by providing assistance to help Toho Tenax America attain this major improvement to the plant,â€ Roane County Executive Mike Farmer said, â€œSince carbon fiber is now being used for everything from Boeing’s new Dreamliner to the insides of the copiers at our offices, this investment is a solid one for the county.â€