Thermoforming giant Solo Cup Co. plans to consolidate its 63-year-old original plant and another Chicago plant into a new, 1 million-square-foot facility on a vacant USX Corp. steel factory site.
Solo, based in Highland Park, Ill., will move 550 jobs from the two older plants to the new site, which is scheduled to open in fall 2001. The new plant will create 200 jobs over time, Ron Whaley, Solo executive vice president and chief financial officer, said in a June 11 telephone interview.
Though most of the plant's output will be paper products, it will produce plastic ones as well. Whaley declined to identify which plastic products the new plant will produce first, but said it eventually could make cups, containers, cutlery and straws.
The new site is roughly three miles away from each of the older plants, which will continue to operate until the new plant is ready. Whaley declined to comment on how much new machinery Solo will purchase and how much will be transferred from the existing plants.
Whaley also declined to comment on investment costs, but a news release from Illinois Gov. George Ryan's office said the factory will cost $71 million. According to the release, Solo will receive $16 million in city funds, $15 million in state funds and $6.6 from USX, formerly known as U.S. Steel.
Additional city contributions to the project include burying old concrete foundations at the site under a layer of landfill. The state will provide funds to help Solo upgrade the skills of workers who will be using new manufacturing technologies and equipment, and to build an access road and develop a rail spur at the site.
Total cost of the project, including dedication of a 20-acre park, relocation of utilities and site preparation, is estimated at $109 million. The project will take up 107 acres of the 573-acre USX South Works property, which has been vacant since 1992.
``This project will be the anchor of South Works,'' Whaley said. ``Solo is committed to remaining in Chicago. It's home.''
The Solo project could be ``the catalyst for economic development and the revitalization of Chicago's South Side,'' according to Pam McDonough, director of the state Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.
USX completed a voluntary environmental cleanup of the South Works site in 1997, clearing the way for future development. The cleanup was the largest voluntary project in state history, according to Vickie Moy, project manager for the Environmental Protection Agency's Illinois office.
Solo employs 4,200 workers worldwide, including 2,200 workers in Illinois at plants in Chicago, Highland Park, Wheeling and Urbana.
The firm ranked second in Plastics News' 1999 survey of North American thermoformers, with estimated annual thermoforming sales of $310 million. Solo processes an estimated 210 million pounds of polystyrene, polypropylene and PET each year.