Schmalbach-Lubeca Plastic Containers U.S.A. Inc. plans to open a $14 million PET bottle manufacturing facility in Allentown, Pa., in September.
The plant is the next step in an 18-month restructuring and modernization project that the company expects to cut costs by about $50 million.
The new facility will put the firm closer to its customer base, said marketing director Shelley Steele. Customers in the region include Pepsi-Cola Co., Coca-Cola Co., Poland Spring Water, Musselman's applesauce and Skippy peanut butter.
``This is an effort to get our manufacturing footprint structured so we can remain competitive,'' Steele said by telephone from the company's headquarters in Manchester, Mich.
As part of the restructuring, the firm also has opened a bottle plant in Fairfield, Calif. This spring, it replaced an existing facility in Columbia, S.C.
The firm closed its Lakewood, Wash., plant in December and plans to close three more undisclosed U.S. plants this year.
Schmalbach-Lubeca U.S.A. supplies PET containers for the food and beverage industries. The firm currently operates 20 PET plants in North and South America.
The 260,000-square-foot Allentown facility will give Schmalbach a Northeastern base to manufacture PET wide-mouth jars for jams and jelly, pizza sauces, and water and soft drink bottles.
The plant ``will serve as an anchor plant in the important Northeast region of the U.S.'' President William J. Long said in a news release.
The company also needs the new plant because the market for PET bottles continues to grow, Steele said.
``PET sales and the entire industry had another growth year in '98, and in '99,'' she said.
Steele would not disclose the number of blow molding lines set for the plant. She said the plant will start with 90 employees, and that figure is expected to rise to 160 in the next three years.
The company will receive at least $1.12 million in state incentives to locate in Allentown.
Schmalbach-Lubeca ranked third in a Plastics News survey of North American blow molders, with estimated relevant sales of $629 million in 1998. The firm is a unit of Schmalbach-Lubeca AG of Ratingen, Germany.