A NAMIBIAN-born businessman has invested R30-million in an umbrella production factory in Smith Town just outside Jeffreys Bay, with 80 jobs created as a result.
The new Woodline Shade Solutions factory is the first of its kind in the province and produces aluminum, steel and timber outdoor umbrellas and furniture.
Woodline has been stationed in Jeffreys Bay for seven years as a squid jigs manufacturer.
Yesterday the company unveiled its new factory.
It covers 14 900m², with four manufacturing warehouses where production will take place, and 12 building units where squid jigs [used to lure squid to fishing hooks] will be manufactured.
Chief executive officer and founder Fritz Walter, 55, said his love for the Eastern Cape and its people was one of the reasons he had chosen to build the factory in Jeffreys Bay.
“I grew tired of big cities and airports and I was looking for a family-friendly environment that could sustain a business.”
He said umbrellas had always been his passion.
With his marine engineering degree, Walter designs the modern-styled outdoor furniture and oversees production and packaging.
This self-sustaining company draws rainwater and uses boreholes, using nothing from the municipality.
The company also uses renewable Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-approved wood imported from Uruguay.
Walters said: “We run our own production, advertising and packaging so everything is done in-house, with the umbrella pulleys being produced in Knysna.
“In-house production has helped put us on the map as we are aiming not to be the biggest, but the best shade solutions company in the world,” Walter said.
Woodline produces 70 000 to 80 000 umbrellas a year which are distributed to restaurants and resorts in 46 countries.
The umbrellas will be sold at the Commercial Marine shop, owned by Woodline.
The shop opened last November and employs 32 people.
Commercial Marine branch manager Lester Alexander said his life had changed when he started working at Woodline.
“I was basically unemployed and I started manufacturing squid jigs and worked my way up. “Today I am the branch manager. “Working here has helped me buy a house and send my kids to school. It really has helped me a lot.”
Kouga Municipality spokesman Mfundo Sobele said the municipality welcomed the positive initiative that would contribute towards the growth of the economy of the town.
“Kouga, like many other growing towns, faces the challenge of high unemployment as we have many job-seekers coming into the area.
“We appreciate the fact we are still seen as a viable place to trade by investors and we hope that we will prove to be worthy hosts,” Sobele said.