Making things look better Factory's impact: Goldwell Cosmetics, by building a new plant in Anne Arundel County, has improved a bleak manufacturing scene in the state.

January 12, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Construction dust lingers on the blue concrete floor in some places, and crudely drawn "wet paint" signs hang throughout, but the conditions haven't stopped Goldwell Cosmetics (USA) Inc. from producing products at its new Anne Arundel County plant, or from bucking the trend of declining manufacturing jobs in Maryland.

"The most rewarding thing about this for me is the ability to bring in new employees who will be able to provide a good living for their families," said Derek L. Anderson, Goldwell's vice president of North American operations.

For the hair-care product maker's 100 employees -- half the figure it plans to have by the end of the decade -- the new $24 million plant and North American headquarters represents the culmination of more than two years of struggle, and a permanent home.

Several Asian and European engineers spent so much time away from home planning the plant, for instance, that they now mark the time by the births and deaths in their families, events they could observe only from afar.

The loss of time seemed but a distant memory to engineering manager Ed Babka yesterday, however, as can after can of hair coloring pushed through Goldwell's assembly line.

"This is the world's most modern hair-care facility," Mr. Babka marveled.

"After 15 years of packing a suitcase and traveling for my job, you can just imagine what it means to stay in one place and get to know people," said Louise Supulski, manager of Goldwell's in-house educational center. "And this place brings the reality of everything that goes into putting a bottle on the shelf."

Indeed, Goldwell's new 200,000-square-foot home contains a 90-seat auditorium for conducting training and seminars, a quality control laboratory complete with white-coated technicians, a working hair salon and one of six educational centers worldwide (the others are in such cosmopolitan centers as London, Milan and Tokyo).

The completion of Goldwell's modern two-story plant in the Linthicum Heights section of Anne Arundel -- the German company's first on this side of the Atlantic and one of the few new major manufacturing operations built in the state in the past decade -- also comes as various manufacturers have either shut down or curtailed operations here.

Most recently, lens maker Bausch & Lomb announced plans Wednesday to shutter its Oakland plant and eliminate 600 jobs, following similar shutdowns by Procter & Gamble Co., Esskay Corp., Cox Creek Refining Co., Chun King Corp. and the Campbell Soup Co. throughout the state.

"The completion of Goldwell's facility is a testament to the need to maintain faith that Maryland is a place where manufacturing can be done and done profitably," said Mark L. Wasserman, whose efforts while secretary of the state's economic development agency were at least partially responsible for Goldwell's decision to build here.

Prior to the plant's completion in the Hock Business Park, Goldwell contracted with various New Jersey firms to manufacture its goods, Mr. Anderson said.

Goldwell also is unusual in that it is expected to single- handedly become a local economic development juggernaut, increasing travel through Baltimore-Washington International Airport, raising hotel occupancy rates and boosting tourism with more than 1,500 hairstylist customers slated to travel here this year for training.

"It reinforces the message we've been trying to send that Anne Arundel and the region is a viable place for headquarters locations," said Michael S. Lofton, director of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp.

Mr. Anderson cited the area's extensive transportation network, labor pool and image as the chief reasons for not relocating Goldwell's operation to Ohio or North Carolina.

Mr. Lofton hopes Goldwell, owned by the mammoth Kao Corp. of Japan, one of the world's largest household-good conglomerates, also will raise the international flavor of the county and heighten the interest of other such companies.

And while many of the plant's shiny, stainless-steel conveyor belts remained idle yesterday, Goldwell intends within the next few weeks to fill the facility with the sweet fragrance of shampoo and hair coloring, and the hum of state-of-the-art mixing machines.

By the end of 1996, Goldwell intends to begin exporting products to Australia and Europe, and to generate 3,400 tons of products.

Goldwell eventually plans to produce 400 items at its plant.

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