Turkish Firm Embraces South CarolinaMay 01, 2017 09:55PM ● By Makayla Gay
By John McCurry
Photography by Amy Randall Photography
A photo hanging in the small lobby of the new Mogul Nonwovens facility in Gray Court is a source of pride for Enver Kayali, the Turkey-based company’s young president.
It shows Kayali accepting an entrepreneur award at a major industry trade show in 2016.
“My father accepted the same award in 2001,” Kayali said to a recent visitor. “We are the only father and son to ever receive this award.”
Kayali’s father, Ekrem Kayali, is founder and chairman of the board at Mogul, a company based in southeastern Turkey with three plants in that country. The Gray Court plant, the company’s first outside of Turkey, began ramping up production in April, and Mogul officials expect to be at full capacity by the end of the year. The new South Carolina plant will produce spunlace nonwoven fabric, primarily for the wipes and hygiene markets.
Mogul exports about 55 percent of its production, with half of that amount going to U.S. customers. Overall, the company exports to more than 50 countries. As the Gray Court plant ramps production, it will serve a portion of the company’s North America demand.
“Almost since the beginning, North America has been our major export market,” says Serkan Gogus, Mogul’s CEO. “Mogul has a diverse product range and we’ve put one type of technology here. We will still be serving markets for other products from Turkey.”
Gogus, who has been with Mogul since its founding in 1997, says the U.S. market has always been strong for the company due to its size and relative stability. While wipes and hygiene will be the primary markets, the new plant will also provide products for a limited number of technical applications such as filtration, automotives and some substrates for lamination.
“I cannot say the U.S. market is growing in double digits, but the size of the market, the continuity, is always important,” he says.
Gray Court will initially have one production line, but has space in its building to add a second line if business warrants it. Mogul also has space on its 20-acre site to expand its footprint.
“In several years, we will start working on a new project for a second line, but we haven’t defined what the next step will be here,” Gogus says. “The management team here can easily manage two production lines and that will reduce our overhead.”
Mogul had long considered establishing a U.S. manufacturing base, but did not have definite plans to do so until they were enticed by representatives of the South Carolina Dept. of Commerce to give the state consideration. That process began in 2015 and quickly progressed.
“We were offered many different locations within South Carolina,” Gogus recalls. “Frankly speaking, considering the cost of the land and the building and the incentives offered, there were more attractive areas. But we preferred this destination because it is near Greenville, which is a growing area.”
The site offers logistical advantages as the company sources materials and equipment from suppliers in the Carolinas. Proximity to the Port of Charleston is also an advantage, Gogus says.
The building Mogul chose has a nonwovens history. It was previously operated by Superior Nonwovens, but was shuttered about 10 years ago. Mogul preferred an existing building versus a greenfield operation in order to reduce costs. A significant factor in Mogul’s site decision was South Carolina’s reputation as being attractive to foreign investors.
“We knew that foreign direct investment has been popular here and that South Carolina has been successful in attracting foreign investors,” Kayali says. “Our wholesaler partners in the U.S. had asked us for years to come over to the U.S. and have our own facility, but we wanted to make sure it was appropriate. After the South Carolina Dept. of Commerce approached us, they were very responsive and the process was quick.”
Mogul so far has invested $17.6 million in the facility, and Gogus expects employment will reach around 50 by the end of this year and 70 within two years. That will bring the company’s total employment to about 6,000. Gogus describes the production line, supplied by Austria-based firm Andritz, as state-of-the-art. It also helps that Andritz’ U.S. sales office and service center is in nearby Spartanburg.
“We are proud of this factory and the equipment we have installed here,” Gogus says. “We know Andritz and have a long relationship with them.”
While Gogus is optimistic about the outlook for the company’s North American market, he says just how much it will grow depends on the political environment and potential trade deals from the Trump Administration.
“The most important part is relations with China. If he [Trump] brings trade barriers against China, this may cause a boom for the industry [nonwovens] in the U.S., because we know that a lot of spunlace material is being imported from China. If there is a trade barrier, it will be an advantage to local manufacturers.”
Two of Mogul’s plants in Turkey are near its headquarters in Gaziantep. The third is near Istanbul. As the company continues to grow, look for it to have further international expansion.
“For sure, we are looking for opportunities,” Gogus says. “We don’t have any firm plans yet, but we believe there are opportunities for either organic or inorganic growth. We’re looking for options.”
Mogul believes in community involvement. An example at the Gray Court plant is the local artwork on the walls of the company’s meeting room and offices. That’s a result of a directive from Mogul management to support local artists.
Kayali, Mogul president for the past two years, and successor in the family business notes that he grew up with the company and that he enjoys being part of what is now a global manufacturing operation.
“We care about our American footprint. We have a vision and this plant complements our mission.”