It might seem strange that for all the products China exports to this country, it should need to look outside its borders for -- of all things -- chopsticks. But the country does not have the wood needed to manufacture enough of the slender utensils, which the majority of Chinese still use and throw away.
In that gap, Jae Lee, the president of Georgia Chopsticks, saw a business opportunity. Lee started his chopsticks business in Cochran last November, sent a couple of samples overseas, and within a few months needed to expand. The Americus plant cranked up in May and can already produce 2 million chopsticks in a day, sending them primarily to supermarket chains in China but also to companies in Japan, Korea and the United States.
"I knew there was a need," Lee said. "I thought I could make a profit."
Americus turns out to be the perfect place to make chopsticks. The poplar and sweet gum trees that grow like weeds in this region have just the right balance of hardness and softness. Harder woods would dull the blades on the stick-producing machines. The area also has an active forestry industry, most of it geared toward producing pine construction and paper products.
Read the rest of the story on the website of the Atlanta Jounal-Constitution.