Douglas County commissioners were told Wednesday that Plastikon Healthcare LLC would add at least 40 to 60 jobs with the planned expansion of its East Hills Business Park plant.
Sandy Dixon, general manager of the Lawrence Plastikon plant, attended the meeting to successfully request the county transfer 9.38 acres of land to Plastikon. She explained that property was not needed for the company’s planned expansion project, which would add 100,000 square feet to the current 40,000-square-foot plant. Rather, the property would be needed should the company again need to expand to meet future demand, she said.
Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he proposed Plastikon request the additional acreage now so that it would be able to move quickly when it needed to expand again. Commissioners approved the property transfer, which Weinaug noted had been done in the past when other companies in the park needed to grow.
Plastikon, which opened in East Hills in 2011, contracts to produce medical devices, pharmaceuticals and supplements for other companies. It also manufactures the plastic containers those products are packaged in, Dixon said. Products made at the plant are shipped throughout the United States, Asia and Europe, she said.
Driving the planned $50 million project was a large pharmaceutical contract that Plastikon is currently negotiating, which alone requires a 50,000-square-foot expansion, Dixon said. The ability to produce that product spurred the interest of other companies looking for a facility that could process similar product lines, she said. That, in turn, convinced the Plastikon board to approve a 100,000-square-foot expansion to handle anticipated demand, she said.
The expansion to accommodate the contract currently being negotiated would add between 40 and 60 jobs to Plastikon's current workforce of 22 employees, and more job growth could follow if other companies contract with Plastikon to produce similar products, Dixon said. The plant’s minimum wage for jobs associated with the expansion would be $14 an hour, she said, with most jobs paying from $21 to $26 an hour.
Dixon said Plastikon was thankful for Peaslee Technical Training Center's help in training employees with the technical skills needed for those jobs, and that it would be partnering with the center to train new workers for its specific needs.
The County Commission’s approval of the land transfer did come with the stipulation the Lawrence City Commission forgive a $40,648 special assessment that comes with the 9.38 acres. Weinaug explained that the assessment, which dated from the 1980s, was to help pay for infrastructure improvements the city of Lawrence made to develop East Hills. There is no longer any debt associated with those improvements, and the Lawrence City Commission has customarily approved past requests to forgive the assessment, he said.
As the expansion’s next step, Dixon said, Plastikon planned to apply for incentives from the city and state. She said it had not yet developed details of an incentive package.
In other business, the County Commission:
• Agreed to participate in an agreement supporting Baldwin City’s recently approved neighborhood revitalization plan. The plan provides 100 percent property tax rebates for five years for new construction and for improvements to existing properties that increase their value by 10 percent or more.
Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden admitted the program was aggressive and was developed after a review of nearby cities.
“We wanted to be different,” he said. “Nobody else is at 100 percent. We decided to be more aggressive than anybody else.”
Commissioner Nancy Thellman said she supported the plan, mindful that Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton did not have the economic development resources of Lawrence.
“I applaud Baldwin for taking a bold step,” she said. “It is kind of an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes.”
• Approved contracting with Springsted Inc., of Kansas City, Mo., for financial counseling, including facilitating and managing bond sales. The action establishes a number fees for services, including a $7,500 fee per bond issuance.