Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Monday that Resource Fiber, a national leader in efforts to manufacture commercial bamboo products, plans to establish its first full-scale production plant in Alabama as part of a project that will create 111 jobs in Sulligent.
Resource Fiber plans to invest $3.6 million in the Lamar County facility, where it will produce engineered bamboo products such as bamboo nail laminated timbers used in the construction of multi-storied buildings.
“Resource Fiber’s decision to locate its production facility in Sulligent is great news for the city and for Alabama,” Ivey said. “This positions our state at the forefront in the commercialization of innovative bamboo products while creating good jobs in Lamar County.”
David Knight, CEO of Resource Fiber, said that the company already operates the nation’s largest commercial-scale bamboo nursery in Greene County and has been looking at nearby locations for its first manufacturing facility. Last year, the company analyzed seven buildings in four Alabama communities.
“We are grateful to have found the right facility and are honored to be a part of the Sulligent community,” Knight said. “We also want to thank the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance for the support and assistance they provided in our site selection process.”
Resource Fiber was founded in 2011. The company has engaged in extensive research and development activities focusing on bamboo products, with six U.S. patents and five U.S. patent applications pending. It has developed bamboo railroad ties and a laminated timber system to replace steel roof and floor decks in commercial buildings.
“Achieving this milestone is the cornerstone of the U.S. bamboo industry,” Knight added. “We look forward to growing the U.S. bamboo products industry starting with our Sulligent manufacturing facility.”
Resource Fiber relocated an experimental pilot facility in Oneida, Tennessee, to the Sulligent site in November 2020. The company expects to begin hiring and to launch manufacturing at the Alabama facility in the second quarter of 2021.
Marsha Folsom, the co-founder and chief development officer of Resource Fiber, said that the company’s new production center will cast substantial ripple effects throughout Northwest Alabama.
“Other industries utilizing bamboo fiber will be attracted to locating here to be near the ‘bamboo fiber basket’ and to advance bamboo manufacturing technologies,” Folsom said. “Resource Fiber will serve as the catalyst for attracting bamboo-related jobs and industry to the region.”
To make the project possible, Resource Fiber received support from the state of Alabama, which is providing incentives under the Alabama Jobs Act, and the city of Sulligent, which purchased a building it is leasing to the company. The Houston-based Harry E. Bovay Jr. Foundation also provided a grant to facilitate the project. The company also received a USDA Rural Business Development Grant, administered by the city of Sulligent, to apply toward the purchase of manufacturing equipment.
“The City of Sulligent is proud to partner with Resource Fiber to advance its groundbreaking bamboo products, and we look forward to helping the company find success and to make our city ground zero for a new industry,” Mayor Scott Boman said.
David Thornell, the president and CEO of the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance, hailed cooperation on a project that has major significance to Sulligent, a city with around 2,000 residents.
“The result of this team effort will bring over 100 new jobs to rural Alabama and create an epicenter for bamboo product research and development, manufacturing and sales for the U.S., if not the entire world,” Thornell said.
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said that the Resource Fiber project advances the state’s goal of creating meaningful job opportunities in rural parts of the state.
“Alabama’s economic development team has embraced job creation in the state’s rural areas as a strategic priority, and the recruitment of Resource Fiber to Sulligent is a perfect illustration of that effort,” Canfield said. “Not only will the company bring new jobs to Lamar County, but it will also bring a high level of innovative thinking.”