Eastman Chemical Company may be headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., and operate globally, but its name quickly is becoming as synonymous to Martinsville as Bassett Furniture Industries and Hooker Furniture.

Eastman's local claim to fame is in part because it has been a driving economic force in the Martinsville area since 2012, when it acquired Solutia Performance Films in Fieldale.

In 2014, Eastman opened a second site at the Patriot Centre Industrial Park, which stemmed from the acquisition of Commonwealth Laminating and Coating Company, and in 2019 announced plans to expand again, into a former location for another familiar name, Stanley Furniture.

“These acquisitions were important to driving our strategy of becoming a specialty materials company,” said Kristin Parker, who works in corporate communications at Eastman.

Investing more than $50 million in the Martinsville area over the past eight years, Eastman has continued to solidify its claims to be a leading manufacturer and marketer of high-performance window tint and paint protection film for automotive applications and window film for residential and commercial applications.

“We’re happy to continue investing in our operations in the Martinsville area,” Parker said. “Eastman has world-class internal manufacturing and external sourcing partnerships that ensure our ability to grow, innovate and serve our customers in growing markets. We’re making investments to continue innovating and differentiating Eastman as a uniquely integrated manufacturer and marketer of window and paint protection films.”

The recently announced move the former Stanley building was one of the largest expansions the Martinsville area experienced in 2019.

“This effort allows the company to keep up with growing demand within its performance films, paint protection and window film produced in Henry County and sold under Eastman’s portfolio of brands,” Parker said. “This expansion creates additional production space at the company’s current warehouse in the Patriot Centre, which supports an additional facility in the business park and the company’s production facility in Fieldale.”

The breadth of the company’s expansions include a 2013 investment of $40 million into the Fieldale plant, followed by $11.7 million in 2017 for a new equipment line and $7.7 million last year when they moved warehouse operations into the former Stanley Furniture building.

A big economic boost for the Martinsville area, the expansions often came with the promise of more jobs, which in part helped bring the unemployment rate in Henry County – 3.1% in January of 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – below the current national average of 3.6%.

Employing hundreds of people, each job at the sites is important for the company’s overall success.

“Eastman employs almost 800 people in our Henry County operations. We all work to provide the best quality film for our customers. Most employees are machine operators and quality technicians making our world-class films, as well as material handlers involved in packaging and shipping our films. It takes skilled maintenance and electrical technicians and engineers to ensure we are running at optimal levels,” Parker said. “Additionally, we have a research and technology team on site to help us create our next generation products. A full support staff inclusive of procurement, accounting, scheduling, customer service, human resources, environmental, health, safety and security professionals are also committed to providing our customers and our employees best-in-class service.”

Focus on employees

While getting high quality products in the hands of the consumers in a timely manner is an important aspect of Eastman’s growing business model, Parker said the company doesn’t overlook or take for granted the individuals who are at the heart of making the goods.

“At Eastman, our products matter because our employees matter. When you choose to work for a company that touches people’s lives every day, you can help make a difference in countless ways,” Parker said. “We thrive when we explore possibilities, collaborate and help bring innovative products to market that improve lives, our communities and the world. We’re not only proven in the markets we serve – we’re improving them.”

It’s not just those currently working at Eastman who carry a high opinion of the company. On Indeed.com, a website used for job postings and reviews of employers, Eastman has an impressive, 4.4-star out of a total possible 5-star rating. Its opportunities had been reviewed by 894 people, as of the second week of February.

With employees at the center, the company oftentimes looks for others to join its team. On Indeed, there were 94 job postings available in February.

“We are always looking for talent, and here, you’ll find opportunities to grow professionally, competitive salaries, outstanding benefits and a global work environment. As you can see from our continued investments into the operations and community, we are growing significantly. We plan to continue to grow, with more investments to support future growth,” Parker said. “People want to be on a winning team, and we are a team with a unique track record of winning. With growth comes opportunities for employees. An Eastman career path can take many routes. Manufacturing operations, engineering, logistics, maintenance, health and safety and many more opportunities exist.”

A broad footprint

The Indeed site reported several job openings in the Martinsville area plants, which are an important piece in Eastman’s global puzzle. Total, the company employs over 14,500 people at more than 50 manufacturing sites and serves customers in over 100 countries.

“We serve customers around the world. Success at our Martinsville sites remains critical to our global business success. We consider Martinsville our center for the film industry and continue investment in these sites to allow innovation and growth in our global business,” Parker said. “The scale and integration of our Martinsville operations and assets are very unique and a real differentiator in our industry. We want to maintain this differentiation as it gives us a competitive advantage.”

Offering quality products, Eastman’s rise as a global production leader has been 100 years in the making, since the company’s founding in 1920. In its 99th year, Eastman produced sales revenue of nearly $9.3 billion.

Looking toward the future, the company plans to continue its role as a staple in the industry.

“Our investments in innovation and capabilities at these sites helps us to achieve our vision of being the world’s preferred manufacturer of window and paint protection films,” Parker said. “We see ourselves setting the bar for the rest of the industry. Martinsville is at the very core of this.”

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