A California-based plastics company has chosen the Georgia coast to open a packaging and shipping facility that will be one of the largest exporters using the Port of Savannah, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday.
Plastic Express plans to export about 25,000 cargo containers through Savannah each year. That's enough to fill roughly four big ships.
"This company in the first year will be one of the top five folks doing business with the port," Kemp told reporters at the port's docks. "This is going to be incredible for us."
Headquartered in the Los Angeles suburb of Industry, Plastic Express ships plastic and other industrial materials to customers in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
The company plans to hire about 160 workers at its new $172 million facility west of Savannah. CEO Ray Hufnagel said the Georgia plant will export resin used in plastic pipe and other construction materials.
Resin in the form of pellets and powder will be sent by train from the Gulf Coast, where it's manufactured as a byproduct of natural gas, to the Savannah area. Workers will pack the resin into plastic bags and then load it into shipping containers for export.
Plastic Express already ships out of other ports on the East, West and Gulf coasts. Hufnagel said he plans to open the new facility near Savannah by October.
"It gives customers diversity" to add Savannah, Hufnagel said. "It gives them an option to get to some markets maybe faster than others."
Savannah's port is the fourth-busiest in the U.S. for cargo shipped in containers, giant metal boxes used to carry goods from consumer electronics to frozen chickens. Savannah handled 4.2 million container units in the 2018 fiscal year that ended June 30.
Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said the amount of cargo Plastic Express plans to ship through Savannah will place it among Georgia's top exporters such as the automaker Kia and paper producers Georgia Pacific and International Paper.
Plastic Express' plan to move resin to Savannah by train comes as Georgia port officials are investing $128 million in an expanded rail terminal that allows larger trains to carry cargo between Savannah and cities from the Gulf to the Midwest.
Lynch said the plastic company's exports should help Savannah attract new import customers as well.
"The more we can get a balanced market, the more we're going to be appealing to the globe," Lynch said. "It's a cheaper cost of doing business. You've got an import coming in and an export going out."