Friday, February 17, 2012

Ink maker in Charlotte boasts global reach

If you're drinking soda from a can right now, chances are it's adorned with ink that was made here in Charlotte, at a plant off Westinghouse Boulevard.

INX International Ink Co. makes ink for the aluminum can market. Its 46,000-square-foot Charlotte facility, which opened in 2004, is the world’s largest two-piece metal decorating ink plant, according to INX’s website.

The company dominates its niche, with 100 percent domestic market share and 70 percent internationally, says Al Baird, INX general manager here.

At the 70-person plant, Baird says, “we take a liquid and put it into a colored pigment. We mix it up, and then we grind it into an ink. That ink gets applied at the can maker to aluminum cans.”

Some of the company’s handiwork is on display in the lobby: row after row of aluminum cans, ranging from Coke to Pepsi to Bud Light to Miller Lite. The company’s four clients are the major aluminum can makers: Ball Corp.’s Metal Beverage Packaging Division, Metal Container Corp. (part of Anheuser-Busch), Rexam Containers and Crown Cork & Seal Co.

INX is part of Sakata INX, a Japanese conglomerate.

Baird, 52, sat down with me last week to discuss INX’s success, what lies ahead and how the company guards against complacency. What follows is an excerpt of the interview that will run in Sunday's MoneyWise section.

Q. How's business?

“Business has been very steady. It’s very strong. It’s been steady through all the economic cycles. We’ve kept a steady pace of volume out here.”

Q. How have you done that?

“I think the worldwide demand for the aluminum can. It’s a very environmentally friendly product; it’s 100 percent recyclable. If every can would be recycled again, there’d be no need to mine any bauxites, at least for the beverage can industry. It’s a very economic package. It’s very durable. It’s friendly to low-cost shipping because it’s so light. You get tremendous value in this package.”

Q. Has your payroll fluctuated much in the last couple of years?

“We’ve gone up a little bit. I think the biggest increase you see is that we have more technical service people now than we’ve ever had. I think it’s a shift to give our customers better service at their site. You don’t see a lot of people in the lab today because they’re out on the customers’ locations. We do quite a bit of travel here. Our lab people will go all over the world. Right now we have a guy in Brazil, and he’s been there for two weeks. We had two people in Europe last year for long stints. Vietnam is another one.”

For more info, visit the parent company's website at

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Software company looks to add 85 jobs in Charlotte

AvidXchange, a Charlotte-based software company, is looking to add 85 jobs here over the next 18 months.

The privately held company has about 125 employees in Charlotte now and 25 more spread across the country, including an office in Somerset, N.J., a suburb of New York City.

Founded in 2000, AvidXchange automates the bill-payment functions for companies. CEO and co-founder Mike Praeger said today that business has been booming since 2008. Sales are in the $15 million to $20 million range, he said, and increased 52 percent last year.

Asked about the local job market, Praeger said that it's "very difficult to find the people we need" and that the company "routinely" relocates people to Charlotte from other parts of the country. "We wish we didn't have to do that because it's obviously more expensive to relocate."

He said AvidXchange competes against the banks, Duke Energy and other high-profile companies for the "top talent."

The company is adding jobs in three main areas: software development and product management; support staff for those positions; and technical sales and marketing. The salary range for the software development positions is $70,000 to $120,000, Praeger said.

AvidXchange occupies two floors in the Metropolitan building in Midtown.

For more info, visit

Monday, February 6, 2012

Machine-tool maker expands

Chiron America Inc., which makes machine tools, this week celebrates its plant expansion off Westinghouse Boulevard in southwest Charlotte.

Chiron America recently added 20,000 square feet to its 55,000-square-foot facility at a cost of $1.6 million. The company, a subsidiary of Chiron in Germany, added 17 employees last year and is "continually recruiting," according to Chief Operating Officer Dirk Zikeli. He said today that Chiron America is in the market for three electricians right now to boost its workforce of 86.

The company is participating in Apprenticeship 2000, a four-year technical training program available to high school graduates in Charlotte.

As for future growth, "all signs are very, very positive for this year," Zikeli said. He cited the company's automotive customers as one of the main drivers of that growth.

Sales have skyrocketed after bottoming out during the recession. Last year's total was $62 million, up from $48 million in 2010 and $18 million in 2009, Zikeli said.

Thursday's ceremony marks the official opening of the expansion, which actually was completed in October.

Chiron America opened in Charlotte in 1993 as a sales and service center; the North American headquarters was established a year later. The current plant on Withers Cove Park Drive opened in 2001.

For more info, visit the parent company's website at