Raflatac Opens New Plant in Dixon with Ribbon Cutting

topstory.jpgRaflatac putting stock in Dixon by opening new plant

Amid the whirring and buzzing of machines working at full capacity, hundreds turned out for Thursday’s grand opening of UPM Raflatac, where they nibbled on ahi tuna, sipped champagne and listened to a live band while touring the cutting-edge labelstock manufacturer.

About 250 of the Finnish-based company’s executives, business partners and suppliers Ñ representing half the countries of Europe and some in South America and Asia Ñ as well as employees and city officials attended the lavishly appointed event.

Raflatac President Heikki Pikkarainen, Jouko Lahepelto, senior vice president of the Americas, and Mayor Jim Burke spoke before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Even though times are tough, over the years, I’m confident this will be successful to suppliers, customers and the local community,” Pikkarainen said, acknowledging the slumping U.S. economy.

Helsinki-based Raflatac actually stands to benefit from the weak U.S. dollar. The company was able to complete construction of the Dixon facility $9 million under its $109 million budget and ahead of schedule.

“This new factory is a great example of how U.S. manufacturing can compete in a global market,” Pikkarainen said.

Burke read a letter of congratulations from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who wrote that Illinois now is the fifth-largest exporting state in the nation.

John Thompson, president of the Lee County Industrial Development Association, said the new company will provide great economic opportunity for the region.

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Dixon landed the labelstock factory with the help of a $4.5 million grant from Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns program, administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The state gave Raflatac a business investment package that included 10 years of corporate income tax credits, based on job creation, plus money for employee training and a grant for infrastructure costs and site improvements. The company also is eligible for additional tax credits and exemptions because it is in an enterprise zone.

“The economic impact is comparable to a huge boulder being thrown into a placid lake,” Burke said, because of the construction and factory jobs created, building materials purchased, payroll dollars that go into the community and tax revenues.

The company began looking for a Midwest location in 2006, after completing its second coating line in Fletcher, N.C.; it wanted to create a “service-area triangle” with its distribution center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Pikkarainen said.

After considering numerous sites in five states, it narrowed its selection to four Illinois towns, and Dixon came out on top.

The logistics, operating environment and the local population’s down-to-earth demeanor “fits very well with our heritage and culture,” Pikkarainen said.

Lahepelto also touched on the company’s efforts to help with environmental sustainability. Raflatac’s production process uses less energy and environmentally friendly adhesives. Also, in an effort to minimize waste, the company has developed a wood-plastic composite from its self-adhesive waste that’s ideal for patio decks.

In fact, the floor and stage where the celebration took place was built of the new “ProFi” material, which the company plans to market.

Jim Miller, president of Joshua Label Co., of Perrysburg, Ohio, made the five-and-a-half hour drive to the event.

“I felt strongly enough about their presence in the market. I think they are positioned favorably to pick up a lot of business in this region,” Miller said.

Miller’s company only has four employees. “It’s very easy to do business with them, because they understand how to deal with a small producer,” he said.

Raflatac purchased 60 acres so it has room to expand if it chooses, Thompson said. Related vendors and suppliers also may choose to locate here.

Story by Sauk Valley News, Malinda Osborne at (815) 625-3600
or (800) 798-4085, ext. 526.