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South Korean Manufacturer Transforms Empty Factory Into Flourishing Floor Industry

REPRINTED FROM THE REVIEW TIMES (STORY BY MORGAN MANNS)–February 19, 2016–Fostoria’s economy and job opportunities are looking up in 2016 after a large international company made investments in the city over the past year.

Images#6NOX Corp., a South Korean vinyl tile maker, moved into the former Atlas Crankshaft building on U.S. 23 south of town in July of 2015. A grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting was hosted last month to showcase products, renovations and equipment.

More than 100 city officials, businessmen and women,  community members and state officials attended the ceremony, where they watched brief videos about NOX Corp., viewed products, took a tour of the facility, watched production in process and enjoyed a light lunch.

Representatives from the state auditor’s office and secretary of state’s office as well as Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler gave proclamations during the two-hour event, welcoming NOX to the United States, Ohio and the city of Fostoria.

“We’re pleased to have you here,” Keckler said during the ceremony. “Thank you for believing in Fostoria.”

NOX’s Fostoria factory is its first in the United States. The first NOX factory was founded in 1994 in South Korea, where five other factories were built.

“Our U.S. sales were increasing,” Human Resource Manager Donna Freehafer said, noting only 20 percent of sales are out of South Korea. “This move gives us better responsiveness to serve our customers in the states.”

In the summer, a NOX  representative said the company was drawn to the tri-county area by recommendations within the flooring industry. The proximity of U.S. 23, U.S. 224 and Interstate 75 were also key factors.

According to a report in the magazine “Floor Covering News”, the company originally chose Fostoria for its popularity in the auto industry and the city’s proximity to other states.

“The area is know for the automotive industry,” Dan Koh, president of NOX Corp told the magazine. “So when (that industry) suffered a downturn, many skilled workers became available. We also found there are few other Asian companies in Fostoria, so there was a belief that the city and state were open for investment.”

Since its arrival in July, the company has invested tens of millions of dollars in machinery, equipment and building renovations.

Contractors worked through the end of January taking down walls, putting up new walls, installing and upgrading technology, painting, laying flooring and more to the office spaces on the east side of the building.

Additionally, the company building a $2 million, 16,820-square-foot addition onto the existing 330,000 square feet of the structure. The 60-foot tall addition towers over the older part of the building to allow for more room for taller production equipment, Freehafer said.

Full scale production of the luxury vinyl tile (LVT) began in December of 2015. NOX makes more than 3,000 designs in five different types of vinyl flooring:

  • Orchid — an eco-friendly flooring that provides cool designs in wood or stone looks.
  • Ecoclick — a glueless flooring typically for commercial use. Pieces click together through a joint system.
  • Ecolay — a gluessless flooring, more commonly for residential use, that provides more size options and sticks together.
  • Ecolock — flooring often used in hospitality and retail that looks like puzzle pieces.
  • Loom — tile that looks similar to woven thread. It comes in various colors, sizes, patterns and designs to allow the customer to be more creative in their selection.

NOX manufactures each layer of every piece of product in its own factories to allow for better control of quality, Freehafer said. Its vinyl tile is sold by distributors to commercial customers, such as large office buildings and hospitals, in more than 50 countries including Japan, Germany, France and many others.

“You won’t see our name on the product but I’m sure you’ve seen it,” she said. “Our products are sold under other company name brands because we’re not involved on the retail side.”

What sets the company apart from other flooring companies, according to Freehafer, is the coating that goes on top of the flooring. The coat acts as a bacteria shield and is eco-friendly and scratch resistant.

As the first Asian owned LVT manufacturing plant in the United States, this 350,000 square foot LVT manufacturing facility, set on 29 acres will also utilize an Integrated Vertical Production (IVP) system for which NOX Corporation is recognized.

“This facility gives us the opportunity to better serve our current customers in the United States and to continue to be the best OEM/ODM manufacturer in the LVT industry,” Koh said in a news release.

The family-owned company focuses on advanced technology to produce innovative designs that meet and surpass the requirements of customers worldwide. Its manufacturing expertise has been proven in western EU by introducing the first-to-market LVT click in 2005 and loose-lay LVT in 2006.

NOX Corp. has received numerous awards and recognitions for its vinyl tile, including a “SEAL OF EXCELLENCE” from the Korean Government in 2009, the ‘BEST INNOVATION AWARD” at US Surfaces Conference in 2012, the “Reddot design award” and the Japan Good Design award, both in 2014, and the “Innovations@DOMOTEX Hannover” in 2015.

“Fostoria really needs this,” Don Miller, president and CEO of Roppe Corporation and long-time friend of the Koh family, said during the grand opening ceremony in January. “Maybe other businesses will see this and, by (NOX’s) example, start settling here in town.”

NOX-US currently employs just under 50 individuals, including both office and production workers, according to Freehafer.

“We want to keep the employees as local as possible,” she said, noting the company received more than 550 applications. “There’s a lot of interest in jobs in this area. And eventually, we hope to have around 150 employees.”

Just before the grand opening, NOX garnered a state tax credit that will add 150 jobs, paying an average of $31,200 per year.

“The payroll tax credit, 1.198 percent over six years, is worth $336,000 and was approved by the State Tax Credit Authority.

Employees wear name badges with both their American names and their names in Korean to integrate the Korean language into the workplace as well as help Korean nationals better identify the employees.

Additionally, those in attendance at the grand opening were given badges that adorned both their names in American and Korean.

“We’re setting up a good foundation here in Fostoria,” Freehafer said. “We have great employees who are busy training with Korean nationals.

“Our biggest goal was taking a building that was closed and getting it functional. We hope we have a need to expand as sales continue to grow.”

More information on NOX Corp. can be found by visiting and selecting the proper language option.

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