Berry Plastics Corp. is planning a major expansion of its thermoforming business one that will create 150 new jobs and invest $80 million in construction and new equipment.
But the Evansville, Ind.-based plastic packaging giant has not designated a location for the plant, which is set to open in early 2010.
Berry officials said in a Jan. 19 news release that the firm ``is evaluating multiple sites to determine the final location.''
They said the expansion ``is being driven to add capacity which will support customers' growing desire for plastic thermoformed products.'' A portion of the new operation will be dedicated to making plastic drink cups, officials said.
Berry executives Randy Hobson and Adam Unfried declined to provide more details, but Hobson, executive vice president of commercial development, said a decision will be made in weeks, rather than months.
``There's no drop-dead date to decide by, but this capacity is needed by our customer base, so the project is definitely being fast-tracked,'' Hobson said in a Jan. 21 telephone interview.
Berry currently does thermoforming at plants in Evansville; Lawrence, Kan.; and Alsip, Ill. Officials would not say whether any of those sites is being considered for the project. But factors affecting the decision include site availability, a competitive workforce, construction costs and customer proximity, said Unfried, president of Berry's rigid open-top division.
He added that demand for thermoformed drink cups has risen as consumers increasingly have chosen lower-priced fast-food restaurants in tough economic times. In addition to cups, other thermoformed food-service items may be included in the expansion.
Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel said in a statement that the city ``will do all that we can to ensure this new investment and job creation happens in Evansville.'' Weinzapfel added that Berry has spent more than $40 million and created almost 300 new jobs in Evansville in recent years.
Late last year, the city gave Berry a grant of almost $5 million in relation to a planned expansion of its headquarters. The details of that project still are being negotiated, Hobson said.
Berry in mid-2008 completed the $20 million construction of a 600,000-square-foot distribution center near the Evansville airport. In late 2008, the firm finished a 15,000-square-foot addition to the tool shop at its Evansville manufacturing plant. The $3 million tool shop expansion created 20 new jobs.
In all, Berry employs about 1,200 in the Evansville area.
Meanwhile, also during 2008 Berry closed a rigid closed-top plant in Oakville, Ontario, and a tapes and coatings plant in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, officials confirmed. Workforce totals for those locations were unavailable, but the Oakville plant had annual sales of about $7 million, and San Luis Potosí about $3 million. Work from San Luis Potosí will be transferred to the firm's Atlacomulco, Mexico, factory, while Oakville production will be absorbed by various locations.
Berry also is in the process of closing a rigid closed-top plant in Redlands, Calif. That work and some employees will move to a nearby plant in Anaheim.
Berry's sales for the fiscal year ended Sept. 27 were about $3.5 billion, up 15 percent vs. fiscal 2007. But it posted a 2008 loss of $101 million, after losing $116 million in the previous year.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Berry officials cited rising resin prices and additional borrowing as reasons for the 2008 loss.
The company ranks as North America's third-largest injection molder, with about $1.3 billion in related sales in 2007, according to Plastics News estimates. In thermoforming, Berry ranks ninth in the region, with $143 million in related sales. Berry employs 13,800 at 66 sites worldwide.