With continued success and growth in the U.S. market, Kronotex USA is responding to product demand by breaking ground on its first U.S.-based manufacturing facility at the 1,630-acre South Carolina Advanced Technology Park in Barnwell County, S.C. Construction will proceed in several phases.

Phase one construction will include a 360,000-square-foot building to house laminating and floor plank profiling lines capable of producing 200 million square feet of laminate flooring annually. Production is anticipated to start by the first quarter of 2005.

Bringing the latest European production technologies to the United States, the Barnwell plant will feature cutting-edge laminating and flooring lines that are the fastest, most precise and most automated currently available, Kronotex said. Combining robotics and the latest in electronic control technology, Kronotex USA will have the capability of manufacturing high-quality laminate products, including embossed-in-register (EIR) surfaces, beveled edges and an attached sound-reduction and underlayment cushion.

"The success of our laminate flooring product in the U.S. over the past two years has so exceeded our expectations, it has become necessary to make the move to the U.S. with a new manufacturing facility," said Norman Voss, president of Kronotex USA. "We are excited about what this means for Kronotex and for our partnership with Barnwell and the Southern Carolina Alliance."

The Southern Carolina Alliance is the economic development arm of a four-county Southern Carolina area and includes Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell and Hampton counties.

Phase two will include construction of a medium-density fiberboard (MDF)/high-density fiberboard (HDF) core plant. Additional phases include more laminating and flooring lines and the rest of the facility.

Kronotex expects to employ at least 70 by late 2005. This number is expected to grow annually, with the final employment to reach 140 by the end of phase two, with an investment of about $135 million.

Kronotex has continued to build relationships with a growing base of distributors and retailers by working to provide efficient and professional service to its U.S. customers through its European imported product.

"The U.S. facility will allow Kronotex to follow the business philosophy it has established in Europe," said Voss. "And that is to be a value-conscious, integrated supplier of interior building products - from raw panels, laminated panels and component parts to finished products."

Kronotex is a member of KronoGroup Switzerland, a privately held Swiss company founded in 1897. With U.S. headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., the company is committed to expanding its North American operations. Kronotex currently has a sales office and customer service operation in Alpharetta, and distribution facilities in Savannah, Ga., and Houston.

Currently, Kronotex USA products including laminate flooring, OSB and melamine laminated particleboard are manufactured in Germany and France. The company currently sells its products in more than 80 countries and works with more than 50 distributors in the United States.