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EL PASO, TEXAS — Casco Molded Plastics Inc. opened its second Texas injection molding plant early this year and plans to ramp up to full production in April.

The Wichita, Kan., custom molder bought an 88,000-square-foot facility in El Paso and installed five injection presses there in January. By the end of April it will have 12 new Van Dorn Demag and Cincinnati Milacron presses with clamping forces of 77-1,000 tons, according to Cliff Russell, senior vice president and general manager. He did not disclose the cost of the project.

``It's important to be close to the customer,'' Russell said in a telephone interview.

Casco will mold consumer products and electronic parts for El Paso-area customers and maquiladora clients. It has been supplying the area from its other three facilities in Wichita; Winfield, Kan.; and New Braunfels, Texas. Casco also will investigate automotive molding opportunities in the area, Russell added.

The El Paso plant should help Casco top $50 million in custom molding sales this year, he said. It will boost total plant area to 425,000 square feet and increase the firm's press count to 133, with clamping forces of 28-1,500 tons.

Casco, owned by a group of employees and investors, was established in 1979. In 1994 it expanded its New Braunfels plant, a major supplier to consumer products firm Coleman Co. Inc. of Wichita, which has a facility next door.