Once the new production space is filled, there could be an additional 40 to 60 workers, estimated company President Harald Hoika.
Deciding to build the new space before being able to fill it with production solved a bit of a chicken-or-egg dilemma for RPC.
“We can wait for a project or we can start and build a new plant and then be able to expand when we get these projects,” Hoika said. “And, fortunately, really fast, we got a project.”
With about a third of the new space already filled, RPC is using some of the additional square footage for storage for now. That will change once new work comes on board.
Morgantown's expansion fits into a larger growth strategy for parent company RPC Group plc, based in Rushden, England.
“There's a globalization trend,” RPC Group Chief Executive Pim Vervaat said. “Where we can add value, we want to have sensible platforms in those areas where we can deliver value to our customers.
“Focused growth, which is not growth for growth's sake,” he said.
RPC Bramlage-Wiko's customers, increasingly, are seeking suppliers who can serve them on a global basis and the company seeks to do just that.
“This is more and more that the customers like suppliers that can deliver innovation, design and production around the world. Follow our customer, that's one big goal,” said Alfons Bockmann, director of RPC Bramlage-Wiko. “I'm thinking, to be honest, where we don't do this, we're out of the business.”
“We're not in it to become the biggest packaging company in the world. We're not in it to become the biggest packaging group in the U.S. But we do have certain capabilities where we can follow our customers sensibly into the U.S., into China. And we're looking at one or two other regions as well,” Vervaat said.
“We are thinking that the U.S. is quite important to us,” Vervaat said. “We're putting our money where our mouth is.”
RPC Group, the parent company, is spending about $40 million between 2013 and 2015 on its various U.S. operations. Other cash is going to M&H Plastics, a maker of bottles, jars, tubes and closures in Winchester, Va. RPC Group acquired that location late last year as part of its purchase of Maynard & Harris Group of Beccles, England.
RPC Group also decided earlier this year to start up U.S. production, also in Winchester, under its Superfos business for injection molded plastic packaging.
“The U.S.,” Vervaat said, “in my point of view, is a market where there appears to be a need in the capabilities that we have.”
Establishing what Vervaat calls a meaningful presence outside Europe is a key to the company's future. With that in mind, the company also acquired injection molder Ace Corp. Holdings Ltd., which has five manufacturing sites in China, earlier this year.
“If we stand still, if we are going to be as we are, I don't think we're going to be successful for that long,” the chief executive said.