Iowa-based rotational molder Centro Inc. is opening its eighth factory, and second in Wisconsin, by converting a 90,000 former Green Giant canned vegetable plant in Beaver Dam.
Even before the plant opens, the three new Ferry rotomolding machines are already booked, thanks to a large new customer and growth in Centro's RotoLoPerm process to rotationally mold fuel tanks, according to President and CEO Brian Olesen.
Beaver Dam is only 11 miles away from Centro's plant in Horicon, Wis., which opened in 1985. Olesen said Centro will run both plants, using one general manager. Centro should create at least 70 new jobs at Beaver Dam.
Centro's plant in Horicon employs 100. That town is home to the John Deere Horicon Works, and Deere is a major Centro customer. Since Centro production is maxed out in Horicon, officials looked at available buildings in the area.
The Green Giant factory had been vacant, and the owner was leasing out part of it to a pallet company. Centro has purchased the entire building. Olesen said the deal closed in late October.
He said the company is investing several million dollars into the factory, including new resin silos and beefed-up electrical power. The building has rail access, and three rail cars can fit inside the building.
The plant is big enough to hold five rotomolding machines. Initially, Centro has purchased three Ferry independent-arm machines, one with a 12-foot swing and two with swings of 8.5 feet. “Those are already full, already spoken for in terms of capacity,” Olesen said.
A Centro team headed by Alvin Spence, vice president of engineering, developed RotoLoPerm about five years ago, for making fuel tanks from cross-linked polyethylene with a molded-in barrier layer to control hydrocarbon emissions. According to the company, both the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Environmental Protection Agency have certified RotoLoPerm. Spence holds a PhD in rotomolding from Queen's University in Belfast.
Centro uses the technology at its plants, and licenses it to several other rotomolders. Olesen said company leaders were informed that the patent has been approved and will be issued soon.
[“RotoLoPerm] has helped fuel our growth and the need for more capacity,” Olesen said.
Molding will begin in January for the new customer, which Olesen declined to identify.
Centro is the sixth-largest rotomolder in North America, with $128 million in annual sales, according to Plastics News' most recent ranking.
Lisa McCool, Centro's director of sales, said the Horicon plant is at full capacity. “Our customers want us to stay in that area,” she said.
Centro molds parts for a variety of industries, including lawn and garden, agriculture and construction. The company runs a total of 35 rotomolding machines, not counting the new ones at Beaver Dam.