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Hagerstown company to build plant in Ohio

November 07, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

HAGERSTOWN _ A Hagerstown-based company, which prides itself on being an unknown here, is making a big splash in Ohio with news that its business there plans to build a factory.

The plant, which will operate as Planet Friendly Polymers, is to employ at least 60 people within three years, according to economic development officials in Ohio.

Planet Friendly is described by officials here and there as being owned by J. Terence Thompson LLC, which has a large office off Leitersburg Pike.

Thompson, also known as JTT International, sells such products as plastic totes, organizers and storage trunks to such big clients as Lowe's, Wal-Mart and the U.S. military for use around the world, according to Thompson's Web site.

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But what the company does in Hagerstown doesn't seem to be known publicly -- and Thompson would like to keep it that way, a spokesman here said this past week.

"We don't want people to snoop around our business," he said, asking that his name not be used.

Making news

The company broke into the news late last month, when Ohio's governor announced the state's Tax Credit Authority had awarded Planet Friendly, also known as PF Polymers, about $116,000 in credits it will receive for keeping the factory there at least nine years. The $1.7 million project also won $40,000 from the state's Rapid Outreach Grant program.

The factory, which is to open in a 50,000-square-foot area of a warehouse this year, is to make compounds based on various resins, according to a story in Plastics News. A trade publication based in Ohio, it said some compounds will be based partly on industrial scrap material.

The factory is to have 25 to 35 employees there initially, according to a story in The Lima (Ohio) News, a local newspaper. According to an interview that paper did with Marcel Wagner, president of Allen Economic Development Group in Lima, the employees are to earn an average of $15 to $16 per hour.

The Lima paper said company officials had contacted Wagner several weeks ago to ask about possible sites. The paper quotes Simon Thompson, which it identifies as owner of J. Terence Thompson LLC, as saying Ohio was chosen over three other states, but it doesn't name them.

Wagner, who told The Herald-Mail that Planet Friendly had asked his office not to give out any information about the project, said Lima has about 45,000 to 50,000 people. He said the unemployment rate there is 9.8 percent.

Little-known company

In Washington County, where the jobless rate is 9.4 percent, economic development officials said they know little about Thompson or the Ohio project.

"We tried to get a hold of them to see whether there was any way possible they would consider doing it in Maryland," said Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

But they learned Thompson has strong business ties in Ohio, Troxell said.

"That was where a lot of their suppliers were," he said.

Troxell said his office's efforts "never, ever got to that point" of trying to obtain grants or tax incentives to have the factory built here.

"J. Terence Thompson LLC is a privately held manufacturer with headquarters in Hagerstown, Maryland," according to its Web site. "We design, fabricate, and distribute rugged, polymer based storage and shelving products domestically and internationally, from eco-friendly recycled materials.

"Our retail partners are among the largest, most respected international companies in the world. Our end-user customers include government agencies, industrial distributors, and over a dozen consumer markets."

It says some of the products are "developed for the military based on collaboration and feedback from troops on the ground."

According to Fedvendor.com, a business-to-government sourcing and marketing Web site, "In 2004 J. Terence Thompson, Inc. was recognized by the Army Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) for its outstanding support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom along with AT&T, Burger King, and Fox Studio."

In general, the products carry the Tuff Nuff, SuperBox and Gorilla brand names. The items are made for Thompson by other manufacturers, according to Plastics News.

Keeping a low profile

In Washington County, Thompson has a 4,500- to 5,000-square-foot office on the second floor of the Cornerstone Wealth Centre building at 19833 Leitersburg Pike, building owner Scott Ford said.

Ford, president of Cornerstone Wealth Management Group, said the Thompson company moved in about a year ago. He said he isn't certain how many employees work there, but guessed there are about 14.

The company isn't listed in either of the local business directories published by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce or the local Economic Development Commission. An EDC official suggested checking manta.com, an online source of data about companies worldwide.

According to Manta, the Hagerstown company has annual revenue of $12 million and employs about eight people.

Neither J. Terence Thompson, a longtime Hagerstown resident, nor his son, Simon, the company president, could be reached for comment.

The company's spokesman in Hagerstown said Thompson has "several" employees here. Asked exactly how many, he said it's "enough."

He asked the newspaper not to publish a story on the company.

"It doesn't have any impact on Hagerstown," he said. "It is a big story in Ohio.

"There's nobody in Hagerstown that knows the company exists and we'd like to keep it that way. We're a very private company. We'd like to keep it that way. We have staff here. We do our thing here. We prefer to keep it that way."

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