ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville’s newest industry, Sam Dong Inc., will initially employ 60 people at the former Assured Casting plant, but company leaders hope to grow to 100 employees within a year.
The South Korea-based company purchased the 80,000-square-foot former Assured Casting plant in the Rogersville Industrial Park last September and refitted the plant with new equipment including a unique machine for coating copper cable and wire with an insulating material.
That machine is housed in a new 90-foot-tall building, making it the tallest structure in Rogersville.
The Rogersville plant will specialize in magnet wire products used in electrical transformers, although the company also produces magnet wire for electrical motors and generators. The new Rogersville Sam Dong plant made its first product shipment on March 14.
Chief Executive Officer Ee Joo Lee, as well as plant manager Sun Gi Park and company President Leon Molloy, will host an open house this afternoon beginning with VIP plant tours at 1:30 p.m. and a ribbon-cutting ceremony beginning at 2:05 p.m.
Lee told the Times-News Monday he is enthusiastic about future growth in the Rogersville plant, which joins the company’s three plants in South Korea.
“We’ll be up to 100 employees this year, and next year in the second step of our investment we’ll be up around 200 — in 2009 or early 2010,” Lee said. “In Korea now we have 350 employees, and we’ll have 100 here this year. By 2010 we’ll have more than 500 employees (worldwide).”
Molloy said Rogersville was a good location for the new plant due to its proximity to customers in Virginia and the Midwest, and the availability of shipping routes to Europe, South America and other worldwide markets.
The Rogersville location was also chosen for the reliability of the electrical supply provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Molloy added.
“We consume a very large electrical energy in this process, and TVA has a very good record of non-interruptible supply,” said Molloy. “And also in our evaluation, there’s a good base of employees in this area. There’s enough industrial activity in the area that there’s a pool of labor that suited our type of manufacturing.”
Molloy noted that many of the transformers in use today are as much as 50 years old, and the replacement process throughout the country’s electrical grid will be ongoing for many years.
Lee added that Europe and Asia are in the same situation with their aging electrical grids, which will be requiring new transformers.
“We see an opportunity for this product because currently there is no other manufacturer of the specialty product we make in the United States,” Molloy said. “Commercially our product isn’t very well recognized because nobody sees it. But in your home there’s probably 40 or 50 applications where our product is used. In your car there’s probably 20 or 25 applications where our product is used.
“And in the electrical distribution industry, which is the area where we participate, the whole electrical grid depends on magnet wire.”
For the initial start-up, approximately 20 company employees from South Korea are living temporarily in Rogersville.
Eventually that number will be down to about five including Park, who has already bought a house and moved his family to Rogersville.