Autronic Plastics (API) was founded in Westbury, New York in 1953 as a small yet advanced plastic molding company. In the mid-90’s Michael Lax President & CEO began evaluating the need to expand the company’s footprint to better capture the organization’s growing customer base. In 1997-1998 API Solutions initiated a thorough site selection process designed to identify communities which fit the company’s workforce and logistics needs. As a result of this search the Asheville MSA was identified as a finalist for the expansion opportunity. After visiting the community and exploring several potential business locations the company launched API South in Fletcher, NC.
According to Operating Manager, Barry Ledford the community was selected for several reasons 1) access to a quality workforce with an established background in plastics manufacturing, 2) competitive tax rates and 3) access to a growing customer base in the southeast. Since expanding to Fletcher nearly 12 years ago API South has grown, investing in new machinery equipment and employing upwards of 20 workers.
In addition to local workforce development opportunities, API South has established a unique partnership with Western Carolina University’s Center for Rapid Product Realization in Cullowhee, NC. “My first visit to the University was intended to last a single afternoon. However, after meeting with members of the University’s faculty I extended my visit well into the evening,” said Ledford. Over the past twelve years API South has utilized the research and development capabilities to maximize the company’s ability to fulfill customer demands.
The University has also provided unique “opportunities to give back to the community.” For example, in anticipation of a winter open house several years ago API South worked with students at WCU to create a small gift for potential students and their families. In an effort to make light of a particularly harsh winter, students designed a mold for an ice scraper. API South worked with the University to mass produce the product, even dying the plastic piece to the exact school colors, Catamount purple.
API South’s Fletcher location was chosen for its logistical advantages as well. During busy periods API South is responsible for numerous shipments of freight each day. Fulfilling customer orders in an expedited manner is of critical importance. “Missing deadlines is simply not acceptable in our line of work.” The Fletcher location has proven to be an excellent distribution point. With close access to I-26, I-40, and I-85 the location gives API the ability to serve multiple markets in surrounding states including South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia without the concern of excessive travel times.