BARNWELL, S.C. — Swiss Krono held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday on an expansion that is expected to create more than 100 manufacturing jobs in Barnwell County.
The company is investing $230 million to build a high-density fiberboard mill and expand its laminate flooring production, creating 105 jobs over the next few years. The plant was originally opened in 2005 as Kronotex, but the company has undergone rebranding as Swiss Krono.
“This is a celebration for South Carolina,” Gov. Nikki Haley, a native of neighboring Bamberg County, said at the ceremony.
As the temperature soared above 100 degrees outside, the event was held inside an air-conditioned tent next to the Swiss Krono plant in the South Carolina Advanced Technology Park in Snelling. Laminate flooring produced at the plant was beneath the feet of employees, company officials and dignitaries.
Ines Kaindl-Benes, the president of the Swiss Krono board of directors, said that her father, Austrian entrepreneur Ernst Kaindl, founded the company in 1966. and that it now sells products in 90 countries. She said the expansion was a “wonderful way” to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary.
Kaindl-Benes said the expansion “presents an important strategic investment for the company” and will make Swiss Krono a “powerhouse” in the industry.
Zeb Portanova, the president and CEO of Swiss Krono, thanked Haley and others who helped make the expansion a reality.
“South Carolina is the most friendly state I have ever worked in,” Portanova said.
He said the expansion will allow the company to “vertically integrate,” buying timber in South Carolina and giving it the ability to more closely control quality. The company currently purchases fiberboard from other companies in Alabama and Canada.
“This expansion will allow Swiss Krono USA to produce 300,000 cubic meters of HDF per year, which the company will use for laminate flooring manufacturing operations and sell to furniture, cabinet, fixture, door and other wood-based manufacturers,” a company news release stated. “In total, the project will increase the company’s annual laminate flooring capacity by an additional 8 million square meters.”
The company expects fiberboard operations to begin by the summer of 2018. The expansion will increase KronotexUSA’s Barnwell County workforce to 275 employees. Those interested in applying for one of the new positions can go to www.swisskronousa.com/careers.