By DAVID KRIER
Just shy of one year after NuPak, Inc. began a $3,000,000 renovation project in the former Advance Transformer building, production began last Wednesday in approximately half of the 144,000 square-foot facility.
“It’s all in shakedown mode, but I’m thrilled about it,” said Nu-Pak owner Jim Hutchison. “It’s basically a new building.”
The new project employs 60 new people, with that number expected to more than double in the coming year. Nu-Pak now has two shifts running at both its north and south facilities along Highway 133 on the east side of Boscobel.
“At Nu-Pak North we’ve hired 60 new people and are looking to add 60-75 more in the next 12 months as we add new lines,” Hutchison said. “Right now we have a total of over 325 employees and we’ll probably be at over 400 by the end of 2014. It’s going to be months before we get to full capacity.”
Nu-Pak is a co-manufacturer of processed food products for 20 Fortune 500 companies and has a stellar record of food safety, achieving an “excellent” 5-star rating by BRC Global Standards the past four years in a row—the only food packaging company in the United States to achieve such a rating. Two USDA inspectors man offices in each of the Nu-Pak facilities and each make two inspections daily.
“We’re really proud of our safety and packaging ratings,” Hutchison said. “Food safety is our main priority, and that’s why we have 20 Fortune 500 companies.”
That was obvious while touring the Nu-Pak North facility last Thursday. Before entering the production area workers, and visitors, are required to wash their hands, put on rubber booties, wash their hands again, put on a hairnet, protective coat, use hand sanitizer, and put on rubber gloves. Before even getting that far workers and visitors must sign several forms indicating they do not have food allergies, particularly to nuts, which are in many of the packaged food products.
Once inside the new production area, visitors can see what kind of a state-of-the-art facility Nu-Pak North is. Product rolls down an assembly line on a multi-million dollar machine manufactured in Milan, Italy. Once it reaches full production, the line can move 200 packages per minute.
“We’re expecting a lot of new product in 2014, so we’re going to be adding a lot of new people who can operate this complicated equipment, because this is a multi-million dollar line,” Hutchison said.
The new facility required a large amount of high-tech equipment, conservatively valued at $3 million, putting the entire project’s value at an estimated $6 million.
“There was a significant lead time on our equipment,” Hutchison said. “A lot of it isn’t made in the United States and had to be shipped in from Europe.”
In addition to the Italian-made production line, the scales that weigh the food come from a German company with facilities in Green Bay. The building housing the equipment has been completely remodeled, stripped down to the bare metal in some locations.
“If anybody had looked at this place 12 months ago and said you’re going to make a food plant out of this place, they would have said you’re crazy, but we did, and I couldn’t be happier about it,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison credits his staff with the new project’s success. “This really has been made possible due to our high quality employees,” he said.
The city of Boscobel has also been a vital partner in the new plant becoming a reality, thanks in part to a 10-year, $170,000 economic development loan approved by the Common Council last January, as well as $390,000 in TIF funding from the first facility.
“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 on. The fact that everyone has signed on and is behind it is super.”