Economics also played a role. Since the company began planning for a domestic plant three years ago, Xu said, its labor costs in China and Vietnam have gone up nearly 19 percent. The price of wax, meanwhile, rose 83 percent — a huge increase for a material that represents the No. 1 cost in candle production.

Xu said her company's move could serve as an example to others.

"Opening a factory here now not only means being able to bring our design and sales team closer to production, but it also makes it possible for other manufacturers to see how viable it is to produce in the USA," she said.

Pacific Trade International reported worldwide sales of $84 million last year, up from $65 million in 2005. Xu said the company's three plants in China and Vietnam will continue to serve Asian and European markets.

Company officials briefly considered opening a plant in California before choosing Glen Burnie.

"We're called Chesapeake Bay Candle," Xu said. "It's wrong to start making it in San Francisco."

Pacific Trade International did not receive any financial incentive from Anne Arundel County, but the company is entitled to an existing tax credit for job creation.

"Maryland … is not known as a big manufacturing state any longer, but the fact is manufacturing occupies an important segment of our business makeup and our employment makeup," said Robert Hannon, president and chief executive officer of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp. "The county benefits not only from having the commerce here, but obviously the new employment that is introduced with the company."

Building the new plant was not without problems, Xu said. Pacific Trade International budgeted $2.5 million for the plant, but the final tab was closer to $3.5 million.

Production began a few weeks ago at the plant, which now employs 25 people. The company expects to have up to 100 workers by next year.

Xu said she is pleased to see the 125,000-square-foot plant humming with activity. At its full capacity, she said, it will be able to produce up to 15,000 jar candles a day.

The company also hopes to employ customer service staff at the plant and create a retail outlet there, Xu said.

"We hope business continues and customers respond and the word of Chesapeake spreads," she said.

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

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