VALPARAISO | Pratt Industries is investing close to a third of a billion dollars — believed to be the largest business investment in city history — to build the world's most technologically advanced recycled paper mill.
"This is as far as we know the single largest investment in the history of the city," Mayor Jon Costas said. "Of course, Pratt Industries is our largest employer."
The Australia-based recycled packaging company plans to build a $260 million, 250,000-square-foot paper recycling facility next to its cardboard box plant at 3155 Ind. 49 just south of U.S. 30. The company already employs 280 workers at the cardboard box factory, and will add another 137 jobs by 2018.
Hundreds of people in the community will be able to get good jobs that will pay them enough to support their families, Costas said.
"We talk about job creation," Costas said. "But friends, this is job creation on steroids."
Pratt Industries will end up employing more than 500 workers in Valparaiso, where it will have an annual payroll of more than $50 million.
The company broke ground Tuesday on what company officials describe as the world's most environmentally-friendly 100-percent paper mill.
"It converts waste paper into green, well-paying manufacturing manufacturing jobs for hard-working Hoosiers with a total investment that will be close to a third of a billion dollars," owner and chairman Anthony Pratt said. "During the construction of this mill, more than 1,450 direct, indirect and induced jobs will be created."
Pratt Industries was approached by more than 75 cities and towns across the Midwest when it began its location search. After months of due diligence, the company realized what it suspected at the beginning: Valparaiso would be the best location for the facility, Pratt said.
Company officials liked Indiana's business climate and also the location. The recycled paper mill will be on 25 acres right next door to the biggest corrugated box factory in the world.
"The mill's freight cost will be almost zero," Pratt said. "So this will be a very low-cost mill. We have over 100 facilities across the U.S. providing more than 4,400 green collar jobs, but this Valparaiso facility will be very special to us. It's important not only to the environment but also to our customers, who appreciate the value of sustainable lightweight packaging."
Pratt is getting up to $2.8 million in incentives from the state and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, as much as $15 million in energy and infrastructure incentives from NIPSCO, and $200 million in tax-free industrial revenue bonds from the city to finance the construction.
The recycled paper mill is a big win for the city, said Rex Richards, the president of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce.
"When so many communities compete for this project, it really shows that Valparaiso puts a very high priority of business development," he said. "It really shows we are pro-business and job creation is a high priority for Valparaiso."
Pratt plans to start hiring paper machine operators, equipment operators, electrical and instrumentation technicians, shipping representatives, shift supervisors, maintenance associates and waste yard personnel later this year.