Berry Plastics Corp. is closing its Winchester, Va., plant and investing $3.5 million to expand two other facilities. The 35,000-square-foot Winchester plant houses Berry Sterling Corp.'s thin-wall injection molded polyethylene cup business, which employs 80 and contributes roughly $10 million to the parent's $140.7 million in annual sales, said Martin Imbler, Berry president and chief executive.
Most of the plant's molds and eight injection presses, with clamping forces of 350-660 tons, will be moved to Berry's 50,000-square-foot plant in Charlotte, N.C. To accommodate the equipment, Berry will spend more than $2 million to double space at that plant sometime next year, Imbler said.
The main reason for the move is to consolidate the two small East Coast operations, though for now at least, some presses and molds are routed for Berry headquarters in Evansville, Ind.
``We want to be careful we don't overwhelm the Charlotte plant with too much too fast,'' Imbler said.
In Charlotte, 10 presses mold polypropylene containers for food and dairy packaging - a business Berry entered early this year when it bought Tri-Plas Corp.
The Tri-Plas subsidiary already makes some drink cups.
``They're familiar with that product line. When it comes from Winchester, it won't be new to them,'' Imbler said.
By year's end, Berry also plans to break ground on a 50,000-square-foot expansion at Henderson, Nev., expanding its plant there to about 190,000 square feet, at a cost of $1.5 million, he said.
®¯The plant makes high density PE containers and drink cups, and PP containers. Imbler would not say how much new equipment that plant will receive, or whether it will hire new workers.
The company has offered positions to Winchester plant workers willing to relocate, and will add new people as needed, but Imbler said he expects the consolidation to cut both overhead and some jobs. Randy Becker, vice president and general manager of that operation, will remain with Berry, though Imbler would not say in what capacity.
``This is a particularly difficult decision because this plant has been very successful and the employees extremely dedicated and efficient,'' Becker said in a prepared statement.
Berry acquired the Winchester plant, six presses and about $6.5 million in plastic drink cup sales when it bought Sterling Products Inc. in March 1995. The business, which has grown considerably since then, includes a patented, 32-ounce HDPE cup with a tapered base that fits in a standard car cup holder.
In April a federal court ruled that Berry's design patent for the cup was invalid, killing three patent infringement suits the firm had filed. Two countersuits, still pending, have been stalled since Berry appealed the ruling in June, Imbler said.
Berry also makes aerosol overcaps and rigid open-top containers. It employs 1,150 and operates 100 presses at six U.S. plants.