For 50 years a Wrens-based company has been mining and refining naturally occurring kaolin clay into products that are now shipped to five continents and 57 countries.
Originally built in 1966 by the J.M. Huber family, the kaolin operation, now known as KaMin Performance Minerals, has had immeasurable impact on the lives and economy of north Jefferson County.
This was made clear in a recent ceremony held at the Wrens plant celebrating its 50 years of operation.
The event hosted most of the facility’s 150 local employees, upper management and community leaders and celebrated the plant’s rich history, its dedicated workforce as well as its vision for the future.
“At KaMin, we have a well-trained and passionate workforce who support KaMin’s vision ‘To be the most admired kaolin company in the world’,” said Charles Newsome, Wrens Plant Manager. “KaMin LLC is committed to customer-focus innovation and operational excellence in the kaolin industry.”
On April 1, 2008, the J.M. Huber operation located just north of Wrens was purchased by IMin Partners and became KaMin Performance Minerals.
By combining KaMin LLC and CADAM SA, a Brazilian operation, CEO Rankin Hobbs explained that IMin Partners created a global leader focused in high brightness ultra-fine kaolin that is used in paper, paint, rubber, plastic, ink, adhesives and many other products.
“The Wrens plant was founded around fine particle, high brightness kaolin products,” Newsome said. “KaMin focused on fine particle, high brightness kaolin as our strength in the marketplace. With that came the growth of the Wrens plant which continues to grow today.”
Newsome said that from day one, IMin Partners recognized the value of the people and culture that existed in the Wrens plant.
“I’m proud of the company,” said retired employee Bobby Braswell. “The company means so much to this county. When they came in here, all we had was textiles. That’s where I worked. It increased our pay, increased our living conditions.”
Numerous employees who had worked at the plant for 10 to 30 years, used the word “family” when referring to their coworkers.
“Employees and all, we just blended in just like a family,” said Morris Hannah, a retired process operator. “I enjoyed working there and I was able to get my children through school there.”
Wrens City Administrator Arty Thrift said that the city’s recreation facilities known as Rabun Park and operated by the Family Y are tied directly to the company.
“None of this would be available or out here without a generous donation from JM Huber/KaMin Corporation,” Thrift said. “They donated all the land out here in a partnership with the city.”
While located just north Wrens, KaMin has mining operations in Jefferson, Warren, Glascock and McDuffie counties, thereby supporting the economy of a much larger area.
“KaMin has been a blessing to my family,” said Barry Bostic, a Control System Computer Operator. “It’s a very safe place to work. There’s nothing better than getting up, coming to work knowing that you love your job.”
The anniversary celebration was held in the facility’s shipping plant surrounded by metric ton bags of kaolin.
KaMin President Harlan Archer told the gathered employees that he is proud that the company they all work for values safety, meaningful relationships and integrity and that he is planning for the site to host a similar celebration in another 50 years.
Hobbs, the CEO, recalled the first time he crossed the railroad tracks and entered the property.
“And now we’re selling product in India and Africa,” he said. “We are becoming the No. 1 kaolin plant in the world.”