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Austrian manufacturer investing $15.2 million, bringing jobs to south Bethlehem

An Austrian company that makes plastic packaging products for other businesses will be entering the Lehigh Valley for the first time next summer, creating 59 jobs.

Alpla Inc. plans to invest $15.2 million into the project and create 59 manufacturing jobs over three years when it opens a plant at 2120 Spillman Drive at Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII in south Bethlehem, said Peter Irby, Alpla finance director, speaking from the company’s U.S. headquarters in McDonough, Ga.

The privately held company employs about 1,200 people in 14 locations nationwide, he said.

“We have some customers in the region, and as we were looking for space, the Lehigh Valley was a place that suited multiple customers, and so it worked out well for us,” Irby said.

He declined to name those customers, but the company produces containers that are sold to companies that make laundry detergent, cleaning products, engine oil, shampoo and other household and personal care items. Founded in Austria in 1955, Alpla entered the U.S. in 2001.

Alpla will lease 160,000 square feet of a 240,000-square-foot, single-story building by developer J.G. Petrucci Co. Inc., said marketing director Patrice Kane. Groundbreaking occurred earlier this week, she said. Gov. Tom Wolf’s office announced the news about Alpla Thursday in a news release.

Irby said the company’s nearest plant to the Lehigh Valley is in Cortland, N.Y., and the local plant would rank among its largest. The company has two plants next to each other in Iowa City, Iowa, its largest U.S. location.

Alpla received a funding proposal from the state Department of Community and Economic Development for a $177,000 state grant and $177,000 in job creation tax credits, to be distributed upon creation of the new jobs. The company also has access to a $1.5 million low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority to assist with equipment purchases. The company’s investment will include installing compressors and resin silos, and adding computers and other equipment.

At $6.9 billion annually, manufacturing is the Valley’s second-largest economic sector of its Gross Domestic Product, according to the latest report from Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. Don Cunningham, LVEDC president and CEO, said manufacturing also makes up 70 percent of the region’s prospects for economic growth.

The Governor’s Action Team, which works on economic development projects, coordinated the Alpla deal. LVEDC had discussions with Alpla as well about potential financing incentives, but the company chose not to pursue those, LVEDC spokesman Colin McEvoy said.

Kane said Petrucci has developed other properties at LVIP VII for such businesses as Alpha Packing, Cigars International and Curtiss-Wright.

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