A full-page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal this week might have led some in Lehigh Valley business circles questioning whether Pratt Industries, a global cardboard manufacturer which has a Lehigh County box-manufacturing plant, is looking to expand locally.
The answer: a $42 million expansion will happen to its existing corrugated cardboard factory in Lower Macungie that will add 90 jobs, within the next two years, the company said Friday.
The Journal’s full-page ad, which appeared Thursday, is headlined “Creating Jobs in the Midwest,” with a large photo showing groundbreaking underway for a new facility in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Pratt Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt, whose photo also appears in the ad, tells readers that besides the billion-dollar investment in Ohio, the company plans box factories in pther locations, including “Allentown, Pennsylvania.”
Pratt, a subsidiary of Australia-based Visy Industries, has U.S. headquarters in Conyers, Ga. It is one of the world’s largest privately owned paper, packaging and recycling companies, with estimated annual sales of $2 billion. The company came to the U.S. more than 20 years and has facilities throughout the country. Globally, Pratt employs about 7,000 people.
It opened the $35 million, 340,000 square foot plant off Route 100 in 2011, lured in part to the region’s proximity to major cities and easy access to Interstate 78, as well as nearly $682,000 in state grants and tax credits for job training. The money came with a company pledge to create 125 jobs during three years. It currently has 180 workers.
Former Gov. Tom Corbett toured the plant in May 2012 with company officials, including Pratt.
Sara Pandl, Lower Macungie’s planning and community development director, said the company’s expansion would require township zoning approval, and possibly a building permit.
The company made news soon after opening, as truck drivers who wanted to unionize spent two years awaiting the certification of their vote into the Teamsters Local 773. The company terminated 13 workers in April 2012 allegedly for talking about forming a union and the case went to the National Labor Relations Board. The company had maintained that most were let go after a decision was made to contract for trucking services.\
Dennis Hower, Local 773 president, said about 15 truckers are union members.
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