Benson’s AVINTIV Expands Product Line

AVINTIV-FIAVINTIV, one the largest commercial operations in Benson, could be compared to a hidden giant.

The company, formerly PGI (Polymer Group Inc.), is a global manufacturer of non-woven materials used in cleaning, hygiene and medical products, among other applications. It occupies a large footprint just outside town and the intricate – and top secret – process of making non-woven materials uses as much water as 1,000 homes on average.

Yet, driving around Benson, you would be forgiven for skipping over AVINTIV entirely, should you miss turning down Chicopee Road. It’s a rather unassuming local presence.

However, the company is a hefty driver for the small Johnston County town’s economy, even if the average citizen doesn’t buy non-woven materials directly. However, they do buy popular products like Clorox Wipes and Swiffer Sweepers, all of which the company has a hand in manufacturing.

That’s why town officials were excited to hear about the completion of a new manufacturing line at the Benson plant earlier this month – a more than $30 million investment.

“It’s one of the largest economic development expansions to happen to Benson since the introduction of the mule,” said Town Manager Matt Zapp with a chuckle. “We’re very thankful we have such a positive rapport with the team at AVINTIV and the team there finds Benson as a key place to invest.”

The new line expands the company’s Spinlace technology even further at the Benson location. According to a press release, Spinlace is a “critical component of growth in the specialty materials business” as it enables the company to produce and deliver innovative nonwovens to its familiar markets  –  cleaning, hygiene and healthcare.

AVINTIV first introduced Spinlace technology in 2007.

The new manufacturing line uses the company’s patented processes to impart customizable three-dimensional images directly into fabric working as both functional and aesthetic.

The process results in stronger and higher performing materials at typically lower weights and with a better value proposition than traditional manufacturing methods, the release noted.

“They took and invested 30-plus million dollars in a brand new internal line that will produce a different type of product they can market,” said Mr. Zapp. “As we learned, they make all the Clorox wipes. When you pull a Clorox wipe, that material – that’s made here in Benson. And it’s not just for Clorox, as you can imagine, it’s also for other users.”

Mr. Zapp spoke with The Daily Record earlier this month, after attending a low-key celebration for AVINTIV’s new Spinlace line.

Through name changes and parent companies (today, AVINTIV is under the umbrella of Berry Plastics), the manufacturer has had a presence in Benson since the late 1960s when it was known as Chicopee. Over the years, as new processes and materials entered the market, the plant has expanded accordingly. The most recent expansion was completed internally, focusing on utilizing existing space.

“The corporate folks were raving about how this was one of the quickest and smoothest installations their company has ever seen,” said Mr. Zapp, adding the opportunity to work with AVINTIV was also a way to showcase his town’s willingness to champion business.

The partnership has been extremely beneficial for the town, continued Mr. Zapp. AVINTIV’s recent growth has occurred in tandem with Benson – 83 new jobs, 29 new homes for employees, a $4.6 million bolster to the local economy in just 12 months and a total of approximately $45 million in local investment.

“It was a smooth process with our fire department, with our planning and zoning department, with our inspections team. When AVINTIV called we were responsive,” added Mr. Zapp. “It was a green tape situation, not a red tape situation.”