Stepping from the shadows of former owner Sonoco Products Co., Hilex Poly Co. LLC will open a major bag-making plant in Idaho later this year to serve the West Coast.
Hilex will invest $10 million to make polyethylene T-shirt bags for supermarkets and retail stores, said Jan Rogers, executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization in Jerome, Idaho.
Blown film extrusion equipment will be added in three phases, ultimately using the facility's entire 135,000 square feet, said Rogers. The plant, also based in Jerome, will start production in the fourth quarter, she said.
The company plans to add 10,000 square feet late this year to accommodate a blown film line, Rogers said. Hilex makes coextruded and monolayer bags.
Hilex officials were traveling and unavailable for comment. But according to a company news release, the plant will be Hilex's ``gateway to the West Coast,'' said President and Chief Operating Officer Rex Varn. ``We anticipate the Jerome plant will grow to be one of Hilex's largest and most-profitable facilities,'' Varn said.
The company also has plants making high density PE bags in five other U.S. locations, as far west as Texas. Hilex, based in Hartsville, S.C., recorded $250 million in sales last year, according to Plastics News rankings. The company touts itself as the largest U.S. manufacturer of plastic grocery bags, with about 800 employees.
Hilex founder Leon Farahnik bought the company back from Sonoco earlier this year for $123 million.
Farahnik changed the company's name back to its original Hilex Poly, a moniker that went away after Sonoco bought the business in 1989. He immediately said he would look to build a larger manufacturing company using the existing plants as a base.
The Idaho development group, a nonprofit organization aligned with the state, helped recruit Hilex, Rogers said. In April, the company decided to act fast, scheduling only a few days for site visits in both Idaho and Utah, she said. A state plane was furnished to fly Hilex officials to various Idaho sites, Rogers said.
``There was no other way to get from Pocatello [Idaho] to Boise in one day,'' Rogers said. ``They then left the next day for Utah. It was a classic case of us trying to capitalize on an opportunity.''
Hilex decided to buy a vacant printing plant in Jerome that had been owned by Moore Wallace Inc. Hilex plans to hire 40-50 workers to start and bring in as many as 200 by the end of 2006, Rogers said. Hilex could spend as much as $30 million for equipment at the plant during the next two years, Rogers said.