American PureTex Water Corp. signed a contract Sept. 26 to acquire 260 acres near Eagle Lake, Texas, for its first vertically integrated bottling and distribution facility. The project is expected to cost $250 million for land, construction and equipment.
The company includes two executives with extensive experience in plastics processing, and China is among their target markets.
Construction of the 500,000-square-foot plant should begin in January, with initial production of bottled drinking water starting in August. The company plans to reach full production at the plant by January 2008, and anticipates hiring as many as 370 with an annual payroll of $15 million to $20 million. The firm is seeking more than $25 million in enterprise zone funds from the state.
APWC said it also may set up a second plant elsewhere in Texas.
The company owns water rights under about 136,000 acres in three counties west of Houston. APWC Chairman George Ingram III began acquiring those rights more than 20 years ago in an offshoot of natural gas exploration. Ingram is involved with about 200 companies in more than 30 countries.
In late July, Ingram, who describes himself as a natural resource conservationist, hired experienced plastics industry executives Dale Behm and Fred Janz to implement his plan. Behm is APWC chief executive officer and Janz is president and chief operating officer of APWC subsidiary PureTex Water Works. The plant will have 10 complete high-speed bottling and packaging lines from Krones.
Krones said the project is one of the largest in the company's history.
Each state-of-the-art water line will include a Contiform S40K stretch blow molding machine with 40 blowing stations for PET bottles, volumetric VODM-PET filling system, Contiroll reel-fed wrap-around labeler, Variopac tray shrink wrapper and Pressant Universal palletizer.
That model of Contiform machine can produce as many as 72,000 bottles per hour, Behm said in an interview in Houston. Behm envisions daily production for each line reaching 1 million half-liter drinking water bottles under the Nature's Finest brand, now being registered.
``When at full capacity, this plant will generate up to 5 billion filled half-liter water containers per year,'' Behm said.
APWC is shopping for Netstal or Husky injection molding equipment to manufacture the preforms and closures.
APWC, formed in 2002, acquired the water rights from Ingram in a 2004 tax-free exchange. APWC was aiming to begin production during 2006's first quarter, but the project has experienced delays.
APWC also is proposing a natural resource business in oil and gas.
Ingram's wife, Kimberly, is APWC's majority shareholder. The firm has about 30 investors and partners including Behm and Janz.
Among previous positions, Behm was vice president of Trend Technology LLC's plastics technology group and president of Puget Plastics Corp., and Janz was president of Portola Packaging Inc.
In another appointment, APWC named Elizabeth Davis, mayor of Lincoln, Ill., as staff executive for governmental affairs. Davis operates at this time from an Ingram administrative office in Lincoln.
Ingram's connections in Asia should provide an initial outlet for the plant's production. ``China gives us the volume to begin,'' Behm said, noting that country's problems with polluted rivers and acid rain.
Potential customers in China's coastal regions ``can't keep up with infrastructure'' requirements, he said.