Specialty Chemicals Manufacturing

Washington County is home to a strong and growing specialty chemicals and engineered materials manufacturing industry.  These companies produce a range of products which use chemistry or materials science to make things better, including fibers, composites for construction products and household goods, and consumer products.

Specialty chemical and engineered materials manufacturers in Washington County produce important components for global supply chains representing diverse industries.  Existing sector strengths present unique opportunities for synergistic growth of downstream chemical, pharmaceutical, personal care and cleaning products, coatings, and packaging manufacturers.

Interesting Facts

Nationally Significant Industry Presence

The Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN/VA MSA consistently ranks amongst the nation’s top 5 metros for employment in upstream chemical product manufacturing. (US Cluster Mapping Project, 2016). The metro also ranks amongst the nation’s top 100 for employment in related Downstream Chemical Products, and Plastics clusters.


Between 2012-2017, the Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN/VA, MSA experienced the nation’s highest cluster employment growth rate (%) for Downstream Chemicals (U.S. Cluster Mapping Project, 2017).


Washington County, VA and the surrounding VA/TN border region is home to multiple firms with local R&D presence.  Nearby Kingsport, TN is home to corporate headquarters and research divisions for Eastman Chemical Company.  Washington County employers Universal Fibers and Strongwell also maintain considerable R&D functions within the region.  Companies seeking collaboration with research universities and national labs can easily access these resources within a short drive-time:  Virginia Tech, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are located within a 2-hours.

Key Washington County Employers

Universal FibersSynthetic Fibers
Strongwell - Highlands DivisionComposite Materials
AGC Flat Glass of North AmericaGlass Coatings
Appalachian PlasticsComposite Materials

Other Regional Employers (Virginia)

Company Product/Service
General DynamicsAerospace Components & Composite Materials
Royal MouldingsComposite-Based Building Materials
Klockner PentaplastRigid Film and Sheet
Hutchinson Sealing SystemsRubber Seals (Automotive)
Strongwell - Bristol DivisionComposite Materials
Longwood IndustriesEngineered Rubber Products
Amcor Rigid PlasticsPlastic Beverage Bottles
Quadrant Engineering Plastic ProductsIndustrial Plastics
Tempur-PedicMattresses and Pillows
Coperion CorporationSegmented Screw Elements for Extruders

Business Spotlight

Universal Fibers is an innovative solution-dyed fiber producer with expertise in polymers and color. Company products have diverse applications and customer markets, including automotive, aviation, and commercial carpeting.  

Strongwell, headquartered in Bristol and with Washington County operations, is recognized as the world’s leading and largest pultruder of fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) products. The company serves a diverse market of industrial and commercial customers. Examples of regionally produced products include:

Washington County is a short thirty-minute drive from Eastman Chemical Company, a major chemical manufacturer located in Kingsport, TN. Eastman produces a wide range of chemicals, fibers and plastics that can be used in many industries, including:

Comparative Wages for Specialty Chemical Manufacturing

Wages for chemical manufacturing workers in the Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol VA/TN MSA are low to competitive compared with wages in similar markets. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019)

OccupationKingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA MSAHouston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX MSAMidland, MI MSABaton Rouge, LA MSAU.S. Average
Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers$17.51$21.57$14.39$28.10$20.67
Laborers and Material Movers, Hand$13.61$14.87$13.80$13.98$15.45
Packers and Packagers, Hand$10.80$11.88$12.18$12.34$13.31
Industrial Machinery Mechanics$29.03$31.04-$32.32$26.60