Itema stays in Zuchwil and invests millions

Itema Stays in Zuchwil
Itema Stays in Zuchwil

The textile machine manufacturer Itema is planning to stay in Zuchwil. The enterprise has extended the lease on the production facilities at the Riverside Site with Swiss Prime Investment Foundation by ten years. Up to 10 million is to be invested.

Further positive news for the Solothurn job market: having already attracted relocation and expansion projects such as Biogen, Megasol or most recently Ypsomed, it is now the turn of Itema. The loom manufacturer, which is part of the Italian corporate group of the same name, has extended the lease on the production facilities at the Riverside Site in Zuchwil.

At the same time, the company has announced investments of five to ten million Swiss francs over the coming two years. According to Christian Straubhaar, Works Director and Member of the Executive Board of Itema (Switzerland) AG, the lease has been signed for ten years. “This is a clear statement of support from the corporate group for the Zuchwil site.”

“Wonderful and lasting”
The owner of the Riverside Site, Swiss Prime Investment Foundation, is also confident that this will help to safeguard jobs in the region, as investment director Thomas Grossenbacher explains. The Foundation recently acquired the site from the listed real estate company Swiss Prime Site, which for its part bought the site at the end of 2012.

The Riverside Site encompasses a useful surface area of around 100,000 square metres, of which over four fifths has been rented out, says Grossenbacher. Tenants are being sought for the remaining surface areas in the halls, while certain other buildings will soon be going on the market following renovation. The extension of the lease is “a wonderful and lasting Christmas present for the 150 Itema employees at the Riverside Site,” Zuchwil’s Municipal Chairman Stefan Hug was quoted as saying in a media communiqué.

Investment in the Zuchwil works will be used to acquire state-of-the-art tool machines and automation systems, explains the Works Director. This step is necessary in order to raise the automation level, thereby cutting production costs. “We are determined to become even more efficient.” However, the new investments will not automatically lead to job cuts. The size of the workforce is linked to the sales market.

The order situation is “good”
In Straubhaar’s view, the current order situation as well as the prospects for the coming year are “good”. It was thanks to the quick response to the Swiss franc shock in January of last year that the negative repercussions were cushioned. Sales prices were raised, the working week was extended from 40 to 43 hours, and internal processes were optimised. “The overall package had positive effects.” The extension of the working week will remain in place, however, until at least the end of March 2016. Around 140 looms were produced this year. He explains that the sales volume was in the vicinity of CHF 100 million.

In 2001, Itema acquired the “remnants” of the former Sulzer or Sultex. In Zuchwil, projectile looms – the projectile clamps the thread and “shoots” it to the other side – are produced for niche markets (technical fabric and high-quality textiles).
Specialisation makes it possible to secure prices that make it cost-effective to operate even here, explains Straubhaar. By contrast, Zuchwil would not have a chance with rapier and air-jet machines for “ordinary” fabrics. It is worth remembering: during the glory days of the 70s, Sulzer had over 3000 employees in Zuchwil alone.