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Quality Industries opens to colorful display

By CRYSTAL BOYLES
Anderson Independent-Mail
October 28, 2005

HARTWELL — Tom and Harlene Habel are Bob Evans’ heroes.

They took a closing plastics manufacturing business in Hartwell and made it a viable business. And jobs were saved.
"There just aren’t too many people who are willing to risk their future on something somebody else said wouldn’t work," said Mr. Evans, Hart County Industrial Authority executive director.

On Friday, the Habels showed off their revamped office building and showroom at Quality Industries, formerly National Vulcanized Fiber Company on Fisher Drive.

"They’ve really done a good job putting it back," said David Sargent, Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center director of economic and community development.

Looking around the showroom, yellow, blue, green and red plastic bins, steps and carts were a stark contract to light, wood-grained floors. Mr. Sargent said he remembered when the room was abandoned, stacked full of old computers.

Mrs. Habel purchased the company in February 2003 with the help of a $295,176 revolving loan given to Hart County by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Those funds were leveraged with a $345,000 private investment from Mrs. Habel and other investors.

The Habels said they thought it was a good idea to buy the closing company because of the workers and the amount of expertise they held. There was an average of 15 years experience at the time, she said.

"We knew we would be able to make something of the company with the experience here," Mrs. Habel said. "When you have people like that behind you, how can you fail?"

Quality Industries now employs 32 people — that’s 32 jobs the already-hurting community would have lost, Mr. Evan stressed.

"There just aren’t that many prospects out there who want to buy a building and product like this," he said. "(Plus) it’s incredibly hard (to bring industry in) because every community in the South has empty buildings."

But Mrs. Habel isn’t stopping yet. More machinery and updates to the shop are next. With that she hopes to bring in more business, which means more jobs.

"We hope to add, within the next couple of years, 20 employees, if all goes well," she said. "That’s our intentions, our long-range plan."

Quality Industries produces utility trays, boxes, shipping containers, pallet boxes, tubs, cans, lids and more.

Companies such as Belk, Eagle Manufacturing Company, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nordstrom and BJ’s Wholesale Club, as well as linen companies, buy from Quality Industries. Abercrombie & Fitch buys trash-can looking plastic containers with a sloped side, which are used to throw hangers and security tags into, Mrs. Habel said.

"Anything that you can think to make into plastic, we can make," she said.