Lawrence manufacturer announces $60M expansion, will add 84 jobs as it increases plastic cup production

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Lawrence Vice-Mayor Courtney Shipley and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly are shown at an announcement of a plant expansion for Berry Global on Sept. 14, 2021.

Story updated at 2:57 p.m. Tuesday:

A manufacturer of plastic drink cups is ramping up its Lawrence operations with a $60 million expansion that will add 84 jobs to the local workforce.

Leaders with Berry Global announced Tuesday morning that it had chosen its Lawrence plant as the site of an expansion that will increase the company’s capacity to make the thermoform, polypropylene plastic cups that are used by fast-food chains, convenience stores and other businesses across the world. Growth of the cup line has accelerated because the product is easier to recycle and more environmentally sustainable than some other plastic cup lines, the company said.

Lawrence was selected over several other Berry locations for the project.

“There is a really, really strong team here in Lawrence,” Ross Freese, plant manager for Berry’s Lawrence operations, said of the company’s decision to locate the expansion in Lawrence.

The expansion will bring Berry’s workforce in Lawrence to just more than 880 employees, Freese said.

The expansion will occur at the company’s existing facility at 2330 Packer Road in the industrial park just north of the west Lawrence exit along the Kansas Turnpike and Interstate 70.

Work to add the two new lines of production equipment will begin immediately and is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2022, company officials said.

Hiring for the 84 positions has already begun. The company said positions ranged from entry-level production jobs to industrial engineers. Wage ranges for the new positions weren’t released as part of Tuesday’s announcement, but company leaders said they would be quality jobs across a broad spectrum of the pay range.

Gov. Laura Kelly was on hand for Tuesday morning’s announcement, which took place at KU Innovation Park on KU’s West Campus. The state is providing about $18 million in incentives to the company. The project is not seeking a traditional tax abatement or other similar tax break from the City of Lawrence, although it may seek some local assistance with workforce training programs, Freese said.

Kelly said the Lawrence announcement is the latest in a growing list of business expansion projects happening in Kansas.

“There is no better state positioned for manufacturing than Kansas,” Kelly said. “No other state hits the trifecta like we do. Dead center of the country location, an infrastructure foundation that is responsive to new demands, and a highly skilled workforce with an unrivaled work ethic.”

The company currently produces the thermoform cup line at its Lawrence facility, but the project will add two more cup production lines and four more printing presses that print logos and other designs on the cups for corporate customers that include organizations like Raising Cane’s, Slim Chickens, QuikTrip, the NCAA and others.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Examples of several types of products made by Berry Global are shown at economic development announcement on KU’s West Campus on Sept. 14, 2021. Berry announced that it is expanding its Lawrence manufacturing plant with more cup-making equipment and jobs.

Company officials said the drink cup line has good growth prospects and that Lawrence’s facility likely could accommodate more production work. The plant is one of Berry’s largest among its network of 285 manufacturing facilities around the world, and the facility has been a longtime producer of plastic cups. Berry bought the facility from PackerWare Plastics in 1997, but PackerWare had been in operation for decades in Lawrence before the sale.

“That Lawrence plant has been full from day one, it seems like, but we always find a way to put more in it,” said John Ulowetz, a vice president of Berry Global, who was on hand for the announcement.

Local economic development leaders also praised the project — not only for the jobs and investment it is adding immediately, but also for what the expansion means for the future.

“Investments like these are critical in a lot of ways,” said Steve Kelly, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence chamber of commerce. “It shows that this plant has a future. If you aren’t getting new product lines and the new investment, that is not a good sign for the long term.

“I’m very appreciative and recognize the incredible importance of this type of investment.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Berry Global’s plant at 2330 Packer Road in Lawrence is shown on Sept. 14, 2021.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.