An Austrian plastics manufacturer has acquired Gehl Foods
’ bottle-making operation and is establishing its 14th
North American manufacturing plant in West Bend.
completed the acquisition on June 1, also purchasing Gehl Foods’ 200,000-square-foot West Bend bottling plant at 825 Rail Way for $5.4 million.
The company moved a plant manager to the site June 1 and has retained the 21 employees who were working there for Gehl, said Tom Jablonsky, vice president of manufacturing Alpla’s North American region.
“Our intention is to grow the business within that site and regionally,” Jablonsky said. “We intend to grow employees internally and add locally as much as possible.”
Alpla is the largest producer of plastic packaging in Europe with 160 production plants in 43 countries. The company employs more than 17,000 people worldwide and about 1,200 in the United States.
Germantown-based Gehl Foods manufactures aseptic dairy products, including nacho cheese, at three Germantown facilities. The company’s fourth manufacturing site was its West Bend bottling plant. In March 2015, Wind Point Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm, acquired the company
from the Gehl family.
Jablonsky said Alpla wanted to expand in the Midwest and met with the new owners of Gehl.
“Their focus is not necessarily bottle making and we are always interested in growing strategically,” he said. “We got the assets and the site purchased and now our intention is to put resources into that region.”
Gehl representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
The bottling plant currently has two machines capable of producing up to 40 to 50 million bottles per year. Alpla’s intention is to increase output to up to 300 million bottles per year.
“We’re excited about the community and the business opportunities Wisconsin, Chicago, Minnesota and the Michigan areas can present to us,” Jablonsky said. "This is a little speculative, but we know that within a 500 radius of the Milwaukee area we can probably find a lot of customers."
The city of West Bend and Economic Development Washington County (EDWC) have been working with Alpla since the spring to help facilitate the deal.
EDWC will likely provide a revolving loan fund to the company; however the amount of financial assistance provided will be determined by how many jobs will be added by the company in the city, said Ashley Mukasa West Bend’s economic development manager.