Updated — The dust has barely settled on construction of last year's $18 million annex to manufacture cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipe at Uponor North America's headquarters in Apple Valley, Minn., yet the company is shovel ready again.
This time, it's for an expansion of the 88,000-square foot annex.
The subsidiary of Uponor Oyj in Vantaa, Finland, will invest $17.4 million into a 58,000-square-foot annex addition and automated packaging technology. The project will be the 10th Apple Valley expansion since 1990 for the producer of PEX tubing, which is used in plumbing, fire sprinklers, radiant heating and cooling, and hydroponic piping.
The expansion will help Uponor meet increased demand for PEX pipes for drinking water applications, Uponor North America President Bill Gray said in a telephone interview.
“Our focus on taking our PEX pipe to the commercial market is really what's driving it,” Gray said. “We're growing nicely with the residential business and as we go into commercial we're growing significantly there.”
One of the goals of the expansion is to get ahead of the increasing demand for plumbing products, Gray said. When the new space is operational, Uponor will mix resin and extrude pipe at its main building and then take the pipe across the street to the annex for coding, heat barriers, coiling and packaging.
“Some product goes out in boxes put on pallets and shrink wrapped,” Gray said. “Those kinds of logistics are a huge part of the operation so as much as we can automate that and run it 24/7, that's what we need to do.”
Construction is expected to begin in late spring and be complete by January 2018. At that time, the business will have more to celebrate than a ribbon cutting, according to Jyri Luomakoski, president and CEO of Uponor Oyj.
“Apple Valley's latest expansion with its automated packaging technology will become operational as Uponor celebrates its 100th anniversary,” Luomakoski said in a news release.
Uponor's decision to expand again in Apple Valley was due to land availability and incentives from city and state, Gray said, noting the company created more than 100 new jobs in 2016 and will add a “significant” number more with its latest expansion.
“We bought the adjoining land behind the new annex and then had to legally enjoin it and make into one parcel,” Gray said. “That took some time and now we're breaking ground on the expansion of that facility.”
Uponor also leased 8,500 square feet of office and lab space in a building next to its manufacturing annex. The company's technology group is relocating there.
By the end of the year, Uponor's footprint in the area will put 738,000 square feet — almost 17 acres of facilities — under roof. The total includes a distribution center and resin-receiving facility in Lakeville, Minn.
Changes also are underway at Uponor sites in Canada. Last month the Canadian head office consolidated with a distribution center in Mississauga, Ont. Commercial piping design services also are located there to centralize business dealings for Canadian customers. Uponor closed its Regina, Saskatchewan, office as a result of the realignment.
The Mississauga site also has a new training facility and lab for up to 50 people. Classes for engineering continuing education units begin June 2.