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Plastic utensils maker setting up shop in Upper Macungie

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: May 29 2014 04:03:23 PM CDT
Updated On: May 30 2014 06:07:55 AM CDT

It may not be great for your waistline, but the next time you hit the fast-food drive-thru, you could be creating new manufacturing jobs.

UPPER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. -

It may not be great for your waistline, but the next time you hit the fast-food drive-thru, you could be creating new manufacturing jobs.

One of the world's biggest plastic utensil companies is opening its first United States plant in Lehigh County.

It's not much to look at yet, but an empty warehouse in Upper Macungie Township will soon bring 75 new jobs to the region.

"This is no small relocation," said Don Cunningham, head of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

You may not know the name Fuling Plastics, but you've almost certainly used its products.

It's the leading supplier of plastic utensils and straws for McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and other national chains. Fuling is also China's largest manufacturer of plastic kitchenware and tableware.

The Lehigh Valley beat out New Jersey, Maryland, and both Carolinas for the plant.  Four other sites in Pennsylvania were also vying for the facility. It's worth $21 million.

"Pennsylvania was very attractive, especially in the Lehigh Valley, for the manufacturing base that we have here, for plastics technologies, and just a good feeling of security and a nice environment," said Bob Chapelski, Fuling's U.S. vice president.

This is Fuling's first plant in the United States; it operates three more in China.  The company is bucking a longtime trend; it's a Chinese manufacturer bringing jobs back to America.

Considering wages here are up to 10 times higher than China, you might be wondering why Fuling would move here.

"Quite frankly, the transportation costs are becoming prohibitive, really -- that it just makes better sense for them to be able to service the U.S. market by location within the United States," said Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, R - Pennsylvania.

Some believe the tide is turning on jobs moving overseas.

"As wage standards rise in China and across Asia, we're going to see more of manufacturing coming back to the United States," said Cunningham.  "Ten to 15 years down the road, this could be a very, very large employer for the region."

Thursday's announcement was more good news for Pennsylvania, which is now seeing unemployment down to 5.7 percent. That's well below the national average of 6.3 percent, however, critics note that some of Pennsylvania's growth comes from Marcellus Shale drilling jobs, and many newly-created jobs may not pay well.

It's not clear exactly how well the jobs at Fuling will pay, but if you're looking for a position there, get that resume ready fast.  The company is looking to get up-and-running by October.