Mar 22, 2015

Ball Corp. finishes $18M expansion in DeForest

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal
By Karen Rivedal

Ball Corp. in DeForest is expecting to hire up to 40 people in the next year to help staff an $18 million expansion adding an aluminum container line at the can-making plant, where steel packaging for food and household products has been made for decades.

The new line for impact-extruded, aluminum aerosol cans, which went online for commercial production last week, is Ball’s first in the U.S. — a fact not lost on the local managers and employees tasked with making it work. With sales of $8.5 billion in 2013, Ball is a multinational metal container conglomerate that makes packaging for beverages, food and household products in 64 locations worldwide, including 30 in 16 U.S. states.

So company leaders had lots of choices for its first domestic aluminum aerosol line — including two other company plants in Wisconsin alone, in Milwaukee and Fort Atkinson — but chose the one in DeForest over all.

“It meant a lot that Ball has allowed this plant to bring a new technology into North America for our company,” said Aaron Hatleberg, plant manager in DeForest since 2011. “It says a lot about our people and the workforce in the local area, and the confidence that the company has in the workforce here to make that a success.”

“Dane County and the surrounding area boast a long legacy in manufacturing, making it an ideal location for Ball Corp.’s expansion,” said Paul Jadin, president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership, in a statement. “With facilities located all across the nation and globe, Ball’s decision to grow locally illustrates the region’s capacity for high-end production and skilled labor.”

Ball’s DeForest expansion was announced as part of a deal with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state’s quasi-public job creation agency, which promised up to $400,000 in state economic development tax credits for the company over the next three years.

To get the full credits, Ball had to commit $18 million to expand and equip the new line, while adding 40 jobs and retaining the plant’s existing 106 positions. Hatleberg said the money was spent over about two months starting in July, when an area of warehouse in the company’s 400,000-square-foot plant was cleared and reconfigured to house the new aluminum line’s horizontal press, which Ball bought from an overseas supplier.

As for the new hires, Rabbitt said he hoped to make most of them in the next year, if business ramps up quickly enough.

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