The chief executive officer of an Elkhart manufacturer says, if industrial hemp was legal to grow in Indiana, it would create substantial savings in an industry where "pennies count." FlexForm Technologies uses non-woven natural fibers to produce components that ultimately become mats and panel products for the automotive and aerospace sectors. Gregg Baumbaugh says the company currently has to import hemp from Europe. During an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Baumbaugh said state lawmakers have "put the rules in place" for the plant to be grown in Indiana, but must wait for the federal government to loosen regulations.
He says fibers like hemp result in products that are lighter, stronger and more impact-resistant than wood or fiberglass alternatives. Baumbaugh estimates the company could save at least $5,000 per 42,000 pounds of material it imports, and says FlexForm uses up to 80,000 pounds per week.
Purdue University has taken a leading role in researching how to grow and harvest hemp effectively. Last year, Purdue University Assistant Dean Ron Turco said he believed commercial growth would ultimately be part of the state’s economic future. The crop has been banned since the late 1930s. The 2014 federal Farm Bill, however, did clear the way for research-based growth.
FlexForm Technologies was founded in 1999 and has nearly 40 employees. Its customers include General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Mercedes.