New Manufacturing Plant Planned for Pulaski, Va.

An Australian maker of home-building materials announced yesterday that it will invest $98 million to build a plant in the town of Pulaski.

The plant, which would be James Hardie Industries' largest in the world, would employ 200 people within 30 months. Construction is set to begin in March.

Officials in the town, population 9,473, hailed the announcement as the most significant economic development in Pulaski in at least a decade.

Virginia persuaded James Hardie officials to choose Pulaski over sites in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee by kicking in $450,000 from the Governor's Opportunity Fund and by declaring the company eligible for another $900,000 in state money to improve road and rail access to the plant.

James Hardie manufactures fiber-cement siding, among other building products, and operates plants in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Chile. Though established in Australia more than 100 years ago, the company recently incorporated in the Netherlands.

According to company officials, the Pulaski plant will be the company's tenth in the United States and is intended to help it meet growing demand for its products along the East Coast. The East Coast accounts for one-third of the company's North American sales, CEO Louis Gries said in a written statement.

The Pulaski plant would ultimately have an annual production capacity of 600 million standard feet of product, according to company officials. Currently the company's largest U.S. plant, in Cleburne, Tex., produces 500 million standard feet annually, though a new plant in Peru, Ill., will soon be able to produce 560 million standard feet.