Demand for COVID tests expected to add 40 jobs at local manufacturing plant
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
Story updated at 4:39 p.m. Tuesday
As testing for COVID-19 increases in parts of the country, the number of jobs at one Lawrence manufacturer is expected to grow as well.
Officials with Plastikon Healthcare announced Tuesday that they are rapidly adding a new production line at their Lawrence plant to manufacture test tubes that will be used as part of the COVID-19 testing process. The project is expected to add about 40 jobs to the plant, which is located in the East Hills Business Park on the eastern edge of Lawrence.
Steve Kelly, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence chamber of commerce, estimated the new jobs would grow Plastikon’s Lawrence workforce to about 120 employees. That’s up from a little more than 20 employees in 2017, according to past coverage of the company.
“They have had a good trajectory out there,” Kelly said.
He said an expansion the company undertook in 2018 created some additional production space and allowed the company to receive new Food and Drug Administration approvals that have allowed the company to do a larger range of medical manufacturing work.
“They do good work, and they are in a space that provides them some opportunity to grow,” Kelly said.
Plastikon officials did not return phone calls on Tuesday seeking comment about the latest project.
The project did receive a boost from the state of Kansas. The company was awarded money under Gov. Laura Kelly’s SPARK Taskforce, which is distributing coronavirus relief funding. The Chamber’s Steve Kelly, however, directed questions about how much money the project received to either Plastikon or state officials. A spokesperson at the Kansas Department of Commerce did not respond to a question Tuesday about how much funding was provided to the project.
A press release from The Chamber reported that Lawrence was competing with Plastikon’s headquarters in California for the project.
The project will not require a building expansion at the company’s plant, 3780 Greenway Circle, Steve Kelly said. Instead, the company has found room in its existing building to add a clean-room environment and add injection molding machines to manufacture the vials. As the Journal-World reported earlier this year, the company leased warehouse space in the VanTrust building in Lawrence’s VenturePark at 23rd Street and O’Connell Road, which has allowed extra space for production in the main facility.
Steve Kelly estimated that many of the new jobs will have wages near $40,000 per year, based on past hiring practices by the company. The company is expecting to begin production of the tubes within the next month, according to the press release.
“With what they are able to do in providing products to the medical field, we feel like this company is in a really positive place,” Steve Kelly said. “COVID is its own particular situation, but the medical field is going to continue to grow as the population ages. A company like Plastikon is situated very well to grow.”
The company has been in Lawrence for about 10 years. In addition to making vials and test tubes, the Lawrence plant has FDA certifications in both medical devices and drugs, in addition to having its own chemistry and microbiology laboratories, according to the company’s website.