A French company with a manufacturing plant in Lebanon County is expanding, and it's staying close to its local home to do it.
Millet Plastics Inc. announced plans this month to build a new manufacturing plant in the Lebanon Valley Business Park in South Lebanon Township, with excavation work slated to begin in September for the plant to be operational in the spring.
The new plant will be a joint venture between Millet and another French company, Plastics System Packaging, to manufacture plastic food packaging. Both companies will hold an even stake in the new entity — called Plastics System Packaging Millet — according to Warren Wohlfahrt, the company's vice president and plant manager.
The 9.61-acre property is adjacent to Millet's current facility at 21 Lebanon Valley Parkway. The company bought the land Aug. 15 for about $650,000 and plans to spend about $10 million to build the facility, Wohlfahrt said.
The initial build will be about 70,000 square feet with the ability to expand to 120,000 square feet. The expansion is expected to bring in 21 new jobs by the end of 2014, Wohlfahrt said.
The build will cost about $5.5 million and is expected to be completed by February, Wohlfahrt said. The next two months will be spent equipping the building, bringing the total investment to about $10 million, with eyes on an April opening.
"We're playing with the big boys on this," he said. "We believe there is a place in the market for us."
It's the second announcement of expansion within the business park this summer. In June, Regupol America, which recycles rubber products to build rubberized flooring and padding, announced it will expand on more than 11 acres to add another 120,000 square feet of manufacturing space. There will be room for future expansion as well, company officials said.
The buildings will be separate but attached by a ramp, and the new building will include about 7,500 square feet of office space. The expansion will increase the company's business park campus to 26 acres and will double the number of employees, bringing the total number of workers at the plant to about 90, according to George Soukas, president of Regupol America.
The project is seeking governmental design approvals. Soukas said the expansion is ready to go as soon as it's approved, with a potential opening in the spring.
Soukas declined to say how much the expansion project will cost. The company already owned the land; it was bought in 2008 when it moved in.
"The last thing we wanted was to be moving our facility and our employers elsewhere if we had ever had to expand," he said about having the available land. "Having the new facility right behind our warehouse will mean we can effectively process our materials, store them and ship them right from here."
The two expansions are good news to the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corp., which manages the 240-acre park and two others in the county. Plastics System Packaging Millet will be the park's 18th tenant and add to the current total of more than 600 workers throughout the park.
While Regupol always intended to build at its current site, Wohlfahrt said Millet also looked at expanding in both Tennessee and near Kansas City, Mo., to be closer to potential customers. He said the Lebanon County location was better, in part, because of the residents.
"It speaks to the great workforce we have in the county," Eberly said. "It's showing an example in the community that maybe things are picking up. Most importantly, it means jobs."
Soukas, vice president of the park's board of directors, said the park is very "business friendly" and often helps cut through the red tape of opening a building.
Eberly also expects the dual expansions to affect both the local manufacturing community and the construction industry.
"When you have a manufacturing company expanding like these two companies are, it has a spin-off effect seen throughout the county," Eberly said. "Architects, developers, builders, they all benefit. It's the small things like that add to the local economy."