Blow molder Sho-Me Container Inc. plans to open a plant in Nevada by September and expand its main Iowa plant to make products from corn-based resin.
The Grinnell, Iowa, firm is scouting sites near Las Vegas to lease a facility of about 50,000 square feet, President Lawrence DenHartog said March 21. The site will be the company's second and will serve the western part of North America.
Sho-Me has many customers west of the Rockies, especially in California and Utah.
``A big reason we want to go [to Nevada] is shipping costs,'' he said. ``A couple of years ago, we could ship [from Iowa] to California for $1,600. Today, it costs about $2,800 for the same-size load.''
Sho-Me will add four monolayer lines, a mix of existing equipment sent from the Grinnell facility and new machinery, DenHartog said. The company primarily makes canisters for food items and nutritional beverages from high density polyethylene. Sho-Me also conducts some PET blow molding and makes towel-wipe containers and lids and other personal-care products.
The Nevada plant will make similar items to those produced at the company's 86,000-square-foot Grinnell facility, DenHartog said. The company will hire 10-15 people to start in Nevada and ramp that up to as many as 22 people after the first eight months of operation.
In Iowa, the company will start making containers from polylactic acid, a corn-based material made by Cargill Inc.'s NatureWorks LLC unit in Minnetonka, Minn. The biodegradable resin, used in other rigid-packaging applications, recently started being used in blow molded bottles, including a water bottle sold in Colorado.
Sho-Me is working with Watsonville, Calif.-based Wildwood Natural Foods, a maker of soy yogurt that has a dedicated cultured-soy plant in Grinnell, to make containers from PLA resin, DenHartog said. The company also will make 12-ounce PLA bottles for organic milk for Naturally Iowa of Clarinda, Iowa.
The company plans to add another line this year in Grinnell to make the containers and will invest about $1.2 million in equipment, DenHartog said. Existing PET blow molding machines at the plant also can be used to make PLA-based containers.
The company will hire another eight to 10 people in Grinnell this year to help manage the expansion into PLA, he said. Currently, the company has 32 permanent employees and about 10 temporary workers in Grinnell.
The firm has received $200,000 for equipment from the Iowa Department of Economic Development. Half that amount is a low-interest, five-year loan and the other half does not have to be repaid, DenHartog said.
DenHartog, who founded Sho-Me in 1987, said a nephew helped build NatureWork's PLA production site in Blair, Neb., a location not far from Grinnell. ``I found out more about it and liked what I saw,'' he said. ``It is 100 percent from corn, not dependent on oil whatsoever and will decompose down to nothing in 75-80 days.''