Poplar trees from S. Central Georgia are just the right type of wood for chopstick-making.
Jae Lee, owner of Georgia Chopsticks in Americus
Chopsticks for China...made in Georgia!
AMERICUS, Ga. -- Seems like much of what we buy these days is made in China, everything from laptops to cell phones to ink pens.
But an Americus company is turning the tables a bit.
They're selling millions of chopsticks to China.
Jae Lee came up with the idea when he found out more than 1 billion Chinese are in desperate need of disposable wooden chopsticks.
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He tried setting up a factory in other places first.
"We tried to run a chopstick plant in South America and then Canada; we've been looking in a lot of different places," Lee told 11Alive News on Monday.
Originally from South Korea and now living in Duluth, Lee finally settled on Americus.
Aside from plenty of willing labor and a welcoming community, he also found the perfect tree.
It turns out poplars, which are plentiful in South Central Georgia, are just what he needed.
Not too soft and not too hard, poplars don't have to be treated with chemicals.
They give Lee an all natural, just right chopstick made in the USA.
In turn, he's giving Americus 150 jobs it desperately needs.
"Our unemployment rate down here is around 12 percent and so any jobs that can be created locally by companies coming in is certainly a boost to our economy," said Americus Mayor Barry Blount.
Georgia Chopsticks was turning out about 2 million a day, but has shut down temporarily.
Lee is installing more Korean made machinery so he can reach a goal of 10 million chopsticks by the end of the year.
He's not only selling them to China, but also to Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.
All of them made in the only chopstick plant in America.