National Golden Tissue, a Hagerstown manufacturer of processed paper products, is expanding its operations in the city to include a new retail outlet on Frederick Street, and is in negotiations to purchase the former 1st Urban Fiber plant near Municipal Stadium, the company’s president and chief operating officer said Thursday.
“It is a huge project,” President/COO Randy Suliga said. “It could top out at $30 (million) to $50 million when it’s all completed” over the next three years.
If all goes as planned, the company estimates creating about 341 new jobs through the expansion of its manufacturing operations and employment opportunities at the new retail outlet, Suliga said.
Suliga said the company is closing Friday on its purchase of the former Lumber Yard and Roof Center at 775 Frederick Street, which includes a 164,000-square-foot warehouse facility situated on 9.1 acres near the intersection with Commonwealth Avenue.
“We’re going to be opening a wholesale retail club store geared toward manufacturers and community residents ... with the idea of bypassing the distributors, the middle men,” Suliga said, noting that the store will include many types of consumer goods in addition to the company’s locally produced paper products.
“We’ve reached out to a tremendous amount of local manufacturers and the idea is to supply businesses,” he said. “... The intent is to open this so the front of the store would be a small club store with a tremendous amount of local product offerings and at a lower price than the Wal-Marts, the club stores.
“The main thing is to highlight Hagerstown, Washington County, and the plan in the store is only U.S.-made products will be sold,” Suliga added.
There will be no membership requirements to shop at the store, Suliga said, who said the company has yet to settle on a name of the store.
Taking a break from meeting with a group of investors Thursday afternoon, Suliga said the second part of National Golden Tissue’s expansion is in its actual manufacturing operations.
If investor support can be secured, the company plans to purchase the currently vacant 15-acre property owned by Cascades Tissue Group at the intersection of Eastern Boulevard South and East Memorial Boulevard. It was known as 1st Urban Fiber when it first opened in 1996, according to Herald-Mail archives.
“We’re trying to purchase that and find investors to put large machinery in there,” he said. “When all is said in done, it could easily top 200 to 300 jobs.”
Suliga acknowledged that a “tremendous amount of renovation” — about $1.2 million to $2 million, he estimated — would be needed to fully utilize the more than 200,000 square feet of enclosed space, but he said the first new paper-processing machine the company wants to add could create about 91 jobs alone.
“A machine like this, it takes about a year to build,” he said.
Overall, the company’s investment into the property could reach the $12 million mark just counting renovations and needed infrastructure improvements, which would include buying more machines, trucks and forklifts, Suliga said.
Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts said Thursday that the city hosted a luncheon and reception for officials with National Golden Tissue and an investor group at Bulls and Bears restaurant on South Potomac Street.
“There’s some very exciting opportunities in the works and the potential for many jobs coming to Hagerstown,” Gysberts said.
Gysberts said he got a “very good impression” from both parties during the luncheon, which was attended by several Washington County and city officials as well as local business leaders.
The group of investors were present with National Golden Tissue officials at Tuesday night’s annual Celebration of Business hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, Suliga said.
“The county, and the EDC in particular, has been involved with this for some months now,” County Commissioner William B. McKinley said. “We believe this business has much potential for Hagerstown and Washington County.”
National Golden Tissue opened its first 130,000-square-foot factory at 858 Willow Circle in the Hagerstown Industrial Park in 2008, and company officials then said they hoped to employ as many as 500 people and invest about $14 million within the next five years, according to Herald-Mail archives.
Suliga said the family-owned company currently employs about 56 people at its facility, which produces household papers such as facial tissue, toilet paper, luncheon napkins and paper towels for use in restaurants, hotels and offices.
“From the business standpoint, this business started five years ago,” he said. “We have grown.”