Motorists near the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike can now see signs of work on one of the larger buildings ever constructed in Douglas County.
Construction crews are busy pouring concrete for an approximately 600,000-square-foot warehouse and printing facility for Berry Plastics.
“Everything is on schedule, and the weather is cooperating. So, we’re very excited,” said Steve Cooper, plant manager for Berry’s manufacturing plant in the Santa Fe Industrial Park.
Berry’s new facility will be about 1.5 miles west of the Lecompton interchange on Interstate 70 and just north of County Route 438.
Cooper said the building is on track to be completed in summer 2012.
“We plan to keep working right on through the winter, as long as the weather lets us,” Cooper said.
The approximately $20 million project does have a local general contractor. Lawrence-based Gene Fritzel Construction company is overseeing the construction. Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said the project is expected to provide a significant boost to area construction firms that will be hired as subcontractors on the job.
Previously, company officials have estimated that the project will create about 350 construction jobs.
In the short term, the warehouse and printing facility is expected to produce about a dozen new jobs for Berry Plastics. But city and county officials are hopeful that the project will produce several hundred new jobs in the next few years. That’s because the project will involve moving Berry’s printing operations out of its manufacturing plant at 2330 Packer Road.
“That will open up a huge space in their main plant, where I think they expect to be asked to expand their line and add significant jobs in the future,” said Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman.
The county is providing multiple incentives for the project, including a tax abatement and road construction that will improve the county road near the entrance to the warehouse.
Douglas County Public Works Director Keith Browning said work will begin in the spring to add a right-turn lane for westbound traffic on County Route 438 and center left-turn lane for eastbound traffic. The project is expected to cost about $335,000, but the county has secured a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation that will pay about 85 percent of the costs.
Berry Plastics makes plastic drink cups and other housewares items. The company has seen a boost in business as it has developed a new plastic drink cup line that is lighter to ship and more environmentally friendly to produce.