Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — Not every company sets out to build a better community, a better world and a better future. However, not every company is Propex.
Propex is known as a leader in building and rebuilding key infrastructure all over the world. Products made at Propex are used to protect hillsides, highways and waterways from damaging erosion by combining engineered fabrics with natural vegetation rather than broken rock.
Their products are used to armor levees in New Orleans and all around the country, protecting lives and property from major storms. They are used underneath pavement to protect a road’s surface and the lives of people who drive on it. Contractors use their products to reinforce concrete, keeping it from cracking.
Home builders use them to protect houses and commercial buildings from winds and weather. Their products are even used by mining companies to keep tunnels from collapsing and by the military to create protective bastions around field headquarters.
Propex products ensure the safety of millions around the world every day. And where is that safety manufactured? In Nashville, GA. While the plant in Nashville is just one of ten around the world, it has a strong presence that resonates globally and locally.
Built in 1968, the plant has one million square feet of manufacturing space that sits on 168 acres. As Berrien County’s largest industrial employer, Propex currently employs 400 people.
With the economic struggles that many businesses have experienced over the past six years that have trickled into the average American home, it’s refreshing to see a company that is a reflection of hope for the American economy.
In October 2010, Propex in Nashville had 240 hourly associates. Since July 2011, they have added around 80 hourly employees and are in the process of hiring 40 to 50 more by this summer.
Under the leadership of CEO Mike Gorey, Propex is re-identifying themselves as a global infrastructure that invests in people. In March, in partnership with the Berrien County Work Ready Program, Propex held a job fair through which they received 300 applications.
According to Plant Manager Scott Hudson, Propex is taking a proactive approach by investing real capitol into the Nashville plant to ensure that it can continue to grow. As Propex grows as a company and invests in local people, Nashville and the surrounding areas will be well on their way to becoming the forefront for economic growth.
“We’re not just waiting on business to come to us,” said Hudson. “We’re preparing our business to grow.”
Though Propex has been making an effort to establish themselves globally, the plant in Nashville has not forgotten about the local community and government that have in large part contributed to the plant’s success.
For example, the plant relies on the Georgia/Florida Rail Line to bring in resin. When those rail road tracks needed to be refurbished, the Berrien County and Lowndes County Development Authorities partnered to get that done.
“If we didn’t get those tracks refurbished, we were looking at having to bring resin in on a tanker, which is an 18-wheeler, and that’s not cost effective to do that long term,” said Hudson. “I was proud to see the local government secure that for us.”
It is because of things like this that Propex in Nashville makes a conscious effort to give back to the community. Aside from extending job opportunities to the people in Valdosta, Lowndes County and other surrounding areas, Propex is involved in various organizations such as the Recreation Associations in both Lowndes and Berrien County, United Way and Relay for Life. As a company, they also try to keep their money local when they need to buy things such as fleet cars.
“We’re trying to give back because times have been tough over the past six years,” said Hudson. “Now we’re back growing again.”
That growth comes as a result of the innovation of brands and products that Propex continues to develop in their market. As a company, they are very versatile and adaptable in their approach, molding themselves to the needs of the industry.
Pyramat® is not necessarily a new product, but a new project line that they have partnered with the Core of Engineers to achieve. It’s used to protect levee infrastructure.
“(It’s being used) primarily right now in New Orleans,” said Hudson.
The plant also began manufacturing parachute material for the Army last year. The fabric is used to make cargo parachutes for equipment and supplies.
“We’re working on three year contracts for that right now,” said Hudson.
They are also currently working on developing reusable bastion liner for the U.S. military.
“It’s a cage that they open up and our fabric goes in the cage and they fill it with sand,” said Hudson. “It makes a protective barrier that they also use here for flood control.”
It is these new innovative product lines, partnerships in the community and a very intense lean marketing program — a whole-systems approach that creates a culture for continuous improvement — that has allowed Propex in Nashville to prosper when many companies are struggling to survive. Striving to be a global presence that serves as a one stop shop for all infrastructure needs, Propex in Nashville is well on their way to the top.