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Future Pipe brings international flavor, research and jobs

Gulfport — With the location of Future Pipe here, this Gulf Coast city has something in common with Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Italy, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world where the international company has operations.

Phase I of the company’s local operation, consisting of a 140,000-square-foot plant and a 10,000-square-foot administration building, is now under construction in Bernard Bayou Industrial park.

Plant manager Mazden Turk expects construction of the plant to be complete in July and the administration building in August. “Construction is ahead of schedule,” he said.

“When the building is complete, we will start moving in equipment and production will start in August. But we will produce some pipe before August for testing purposes.”

The worldwide company that makes specialized, high-pressure fiberglass pipe is the core of the Future Pipe Industries Group with subsidiaries in industrial, financial, commercial, real estate, security, information, multimedia and publishing businesses and research centers in 23 countries.

Future Pipe is a world leader in composite pipe systems design and manufacturing with 3,000 employees worldwide. Future Management Holdings Group has approximately 5,000 employees. Although the Gulfport plant currently has five employees, when fully operational it is expected to employ 300 workers.

“We now have the production manager, quality control manager, a sales person and an administrative assistant,” Turk said, “and we are gearing up to do some more hiring. We will have 50 employees in July and double that amount by the end of the year.”

He said it’s important to find lead employees with fiberglass experience and the majority will be skilled labor.

“It’s too early to target some of those but we are finding key people on the Coast,” he added. “We will find some in Texas and Louisiana where there are more fiberglass plants.”

Turk said Future Pipe is receiving résumés and is working closely with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security’s WIN Center in Gulfport to find good workers. “We are concentrating on getting up and running because in two years we want to build phase II and then phase III, which will be research and development,” he said. “That’s all in the near future.”

In September, Fouad Makhzoumi, chairman of Future Pipe Group, announced plans to move the company’s research operations from Houston, Texas, to Gulfport and make Gulfport his primary technology center. The research will not translate into big numbers as far as personnel is concerned — seven to 10 initially — but they will be scientists and engineers specializing in polymers and reinforcement engineering whose work could lead to new products and services resulting in more jobs.

“We decided that instead of having the research and development in Houston and Mississippi, all of our research and development will be here in Mississippi,” the chairman said. “We would like Mississippi to be the center of technology for us, for the North American market. I believe there are a lot of opportunities because there are small development labs in Mississippi. We believe some of them could fit very well within our scope.”

Turk said Future Pipe has established contact with the University of Southern Mississippi and is looking to have a close relationship with the school’s polymer program. He said the university’s leadership in this field played a role in Future Pipe’s decision.

“My dream is that Mississippi will be the composites center, like you have the Silicon Valley in California,” Makhzoumi said. “You can do it here, and it could be done very easily because already you have the Polymer Institute and it’s just a matter now of working with the university to transform the technology into marketable products.”

Turk says Future Pipe had sound reasons for choosing Gulfport for the company’s first manufacturing operation in the U.S. “The economic development people presented us a great opportunity. We came here for the great incentives and tax relief, the hospitality and the strategic location between Texas and Florida,” he said. “We can use the port to export to South America, and we have rail, highway and seaway transportation right next to our site. All three ways are a stone’s throw from our plant.”

He added that the company has had a great experience working with the people of South Mississippi and is pleased to be in the middle of the composite industry that’s growing here. “We will contribute to that,” he said. “We will make two types of fiberglass pipe to compete with steel and concrete pipe; one mainly for oil, gas and petrochemical industries and one for municipal water systems. Fiberglass is the wave of the future. Most industries are going to this type of pipe now.”

Born in Lebanon in 1971, Turk grew up during the days of the Lebanese Civil War. After high school graduation, he relocated to the U.S. and became a citizen in 1993. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering at West Virginia University and returned to Lebanon to be a part of the reconstruction of his hometown. During the following three years, he was actively engaged in planning and design of projects located in Europe and the Middle East.

After returning to the U.S., he worked as an engineering consultant in New York City where he was a project manager for several multi-million dollar projects. He was recruited by Future Pipe specifically for the Gulfport position.

He says he had no culture shock moving from Manhattan to Long Beach, Miss., with his wife, Rania, and their two children. “The Lebanese are very family oriented and we believe it’s important to know our neighbors,” he said. “Everyone here has been so kind and friendly. We like that.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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