Remember that feel-good story of the little plant in Americus, Ga., that was to send 2 million sets of chopsticks a day to China — and became a something of a symbol of outside-the-box thinking in a tough economy?
Georgia Chopsticks LLC, 102 Brady Road, Americus was closed Thursday just after 2 p.m. when lawyers descended and the company went into receivership. A temporary restraining order was also in effect so that evidence could not be be destroyed or removed. The court order was signed on April 18 by a Bleckley County judge.
A dozen employees onsite were asked to leave the premises, the newspaper reported. Here’s a taste of the AJC piece on the enterprise from last June:
Let it be known that when China needed more chopsticks, the country of 1.3 billion people turned to the south-central Georgia city of Americus.
It may seem strange that for all the products that China exports to this country, it should need to look outside its borders for — of all things — chopsticks. But the country does not have the wood needed to manufacture enough of the slender utensils, which the majority of Chinese still use and throw away.
In that gap, Jae Lee, the president of Georgia Chopsticks, saw a business opportunity. Lee started his chopsticks business in Cochran, last November, sent a couple of samples overseas, and within a few months needed to expand. The Americus plant cranked up in May and can already produce 2 million chopsticks in a day, sending them primarily to supermarket chains in China but also to companies in Japan, Korea and the United States.
“I knew there was a need, ” Lee said. “I thought I could make a profit.”
Americus turns out to be the perfect place to make chopsticks. The poplar and sweet gum trees that grow like weeds in this region have just the right balance of hardness and softness. Harder woods would dull the blades on the stick-producing machines. The area also has an active forestry industry, most of it geared toward producing pine construction and paper products.
Moreover, Americus — a city of 17,000 people about a two-hour drive south from Atlanta — has an abundant labor force because of its 12 percent unemployment rate (metro Atlanta’s is 9.7 percent) and numerous moribund manufacturing plants. The new plant is expected to offer 150 jobs.
Still, city officials admit they were taken by surprise when the term chopsticks came up. While China has a few hundred producers of them, the U.S. has this factory and little else.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider