Five years after Advance Transformer announced it was pulling out of Boscobel and taking 200 jobs with it—as well as leaving a vacant, 144,000 square-foot building behind—the former lighting ballasts plant has found new life thanks to a $3,000,000 renovation project by Nu-Pak, Inc. The project is expected to add 50 or more new jobs as early as this summer.
“I’m thrilled about it,” said Nu-Pak owner Jim Hutchison. “It’s basically going to be a new building.”
Last month the Common Council approved a 10-year, $170,000 economic development loan for the project through the Community Development Block Grant program. The Council also agreed to pay Hutchison $388,870 in TIF money the city owed Nu-Pak through a Developer’s Agreement made when Nu-Pak was built, in which the company paid up front for infrastructure costs associated with the project to later be reimbursed by the city.
“It was money he had coming, we just gave it to him ahead of time, minus the interest,” said City Administrator Arlie Harris. “For us it’s terrific, because he’ll essentially be creating jobs twice. He’s also sticking a ton of money in there, basically re-doing the whole building. It’s terrific.”
Hutchison said he couldn’t be happier with the relationship he and his company have had with the city of Boscobel over the years.
“Boscobel has been just excellent to work with,” Hutchison said. “Anything that we’ve needed, they have been just so helpful to work with us. The fact that everyone has signed on and is behind it is super.”
Renovating a 45-year-old building has many hidden costs, as Hutchison and his crew have found out.
“It’s a challenge converting an older building. We discovered that we had to spend $75,000 for a new 300-foot sewer line. That’s something that nobody was expecting,” Hutchison said.
The new Nu-Pak North, as it will be called, will comprise nearly 70,000 square feed on the east side of the building. Concrete is currently being poured for new flooring and in the next week or two work will begin on the construction of two additional loading docks.
“We are keeping some of the old offices and the break room, but basically it will be a new building,” Hutchison said. “It’s definitely been a challenge converting an old building, but we think it will be economically to our advantage in the long run.”
Hutchison stressed that negotiations with Nu-Pak’s new customer are ongoing and that he couldn’t reveal the company’s identity at this point, but that he is confident the negotiations will be completed in the coming weeks.
“There are actually two projects and we have already been awarded one,” Hutchison said. “If we get both projects, well, that keeps the building open. Now the building is a stand-alone, viable project. We’re optimistic and building as though they’re both coming.”
Like Nu-Pak South just across Highway 133, Nu-Pak North will be in the business of packaging “ready-to-eat” meat and cheese products. Nu-Pak South currently employs 250-260 people on three shifts, two production and one sanitation. Customers include Tyson, Sarah Lee, Kraft, Swiss Valley Farms, and others.
The new facility will require a large amount of high-tech equipment, conservatively valued at an additional $3 million, putting the entire project’s value at an estimated $6 million.
“There is a significant lead time on our equipment. A lot of this machinery isn’t made here; it has to be shipped from Europe,” Hutchison said, adding that full production probably won’t be achieved until January 2014. The new facility will require a “high level of food security,” according to Hutchison, something that has been a trademark of Nu-Pak’s over the years.
“This really has been made possible due to our high quality employees,” Hutchison said. “We’ve received the highest possible rating in food safety, an ‘A’ rating, three years in a row. That’s extremely rare in this business and is a testament to our p