By RUTH MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News
The Niagra Lockport (Weavexx today) plant was built in 1955 and was the first industry to locate in the Industrial Park. It faces Highway 12. The plant was built to support the paper industry, which was growing fast in the South.
The Starkville plant had a major expansion in 1979 to include modern needle punching. Several expansions followed between 1979 and 1988 as this plant became the major site for felt production. In 1992, Lockport Felt became Weavexx.
Additional expansions came in 2001 with the installation of the most modern DILO needle punch machine from Germany and further expansion in 2004 to increase finishing and weaving capacity.
In 1955 Lockport Felt was 33,000 square feet and employed 25 people. By 1983, the company had about 175 employees with an annual payroll over a million dollars. Today, the plant has increased to 300,000 square feet and employs 230 people.
Many of the paper machine clothing products in use today are a result of our company’s research and development. The new products have generated unprecedented performance and productivity enhancements for papermakers around the world. The Starkville plant has manufactured Press Felts for customers in the USA, Canada, Europe and for many Pacific Rim countries.
Nearly as old as the papermaking industry itself, the company that would become Weavexx is among the oldest established companies in the paper machine clothing business with origins in the mid 1800s.
Originally named Lockport Felt, the U.S. company dates back to 1870. Lockport Felts was primarily a woolens manufacturer with the capability to manufacture press felts. In 1977 the company became known as Niagra Lockport Industries Inc.
The Starkville plant is an integral part of the global technology group Xerium Technologies, Inc. Comprised of Weavexx in North America plus Huyck, Wangner, Stowe Woodward and Mount Hope companies around the world. Xerium is uniquely positioned as the premier solution provider for the paper industry around the globe.
In late 2011 Weavexx invested $300,000 in new lighting technology to replace old, energy-consuming fixtures throughout the plant. The investment by Weavexx qualified for a $208,000 rebate grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority that was calculated on the energy savings to light the plant.
TVA, through the Starkville Electric Department, has worked with Weavexx since last summer in a program offered to commercial businesses that reduce consumption. TVA began by laying out the actual savings for each individual fixture in the 300,000 square foot facility. Once verified, TVA tracked the installation of the new fixtures by wattage.
Weavexx replaced more than 1,000 fixtures, mostly 400-watt incandescent bulbs, with four-foot, energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, or T-8s. The total cost of the investment since September was more than $300,000. Additionally, the replacement work never halted or slowed productivity in the two months crews took to install them.
“We estimated we’d get back 50 percent by this point,” said Hoyt Otts, electronic supervisor at Weavexx, “but we ended up getting back close to 70 percent. By far, this has been the most significant investment we’ve made.”
TVA reported that Weavexx’s rebate was the largest ever awarded to a corporation for energy efficiency in the state.
Ross Johnstone is the current plant manager at Weavexx. He said, “Hal Williams will retire in June after working at the plant more than 40 years, and Keith Rising will be the longest serving manager. He relocated from Newfayne, N.Y., to work at the Starkville plant more than 30 years ago.”
According to the City of Starkville website, Starkville offers over 670 acres of available property in our business parks, each of which is adjacent to four-lane highway access. Each park is within 15 miles of the nearest commercial airport and 25 miles of the nearest navigable waterway.