In an earlier version of this story the first name of Jim Gorman, senior project manager with Blue Rock Construction, was incorrect. We regret the error.
MUNCIE, Ind. — The sheer size of the CANPACK beverage and beer can factory, just finishing its rise up from an empty field near Fuson and Cowan roads off the Muncie Bypass, invites a consult with the thesaurus.
“Colossal,” “enormous,” gigantic” and even “gargantuan” all appear appropriate for the edifice angling southeast to northwest atop what was farm dirt. It will encompass 862,000 square feet and use 4,500 tons of structural steel and 75,000 cubic yards of concrete when done, according to its general contractor.
Traci Lutton, vice president of Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance, said the general consensus is that the still-under-construction plant is now the largest standing building in Delaware County, rivaling Progress Rail’s 750,000-square-foot factory located just north up Cowan Road. That behemoth factory was built by Westinghouse in 1960 to create giant power transformers.
In history, the granddaddy of Muncie manufacturing facilities was the half-mile-long BorgWarner Automotive plant. It contained more than 1 million square feet of space used to make automotive power transfer cases along Kilgore Avenue. It closed in 2009 and was razed in 2017.
But local manufacturing seems to be returning in a big way now.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, Peter Giorgi, president and chief executive officer of Giorgi Global Holding, which owns CANPACK, and assorted elected local officials and economic developers gathered at the can maker’s construction site Wednesday to behold and celebrate the installment of the final steel beam to the plant’s frame.
“I think everybody understands how much this means to the community,” said Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour In remarks ahead of the “topping off” event, “This is huge.”
And so it was.
Holcomb noted the difficulty faced by project managers in planning and executing such a large building effort amid changing factors in recent months, happening daily and on a global basis.
“And yet, this project in Muncie and Delaware County, because of all the hands that came together, kept us on track,” the governor said.
Holcomb said CANPACK jobs will better lives in the community.
“These are careers,” Holcomb said. “These are sticky. These are well paying jobs on the south side … this is a godsend. I just love it when a plan comes together.”
The project itself lies outside the Muncie city limits in Delaware County. County Commissioner James King told the crowd that he gets asked how to build the county back up.
“This is how we do it.” he said. “Working with great people like CANPACK and bringing them here. Working (Indiana Economic development Corp.) and the governor.”
He said the county had lost a lot of manufacturing jobs over the years but the commissioners in place now are bring the jobs back.
King said CANPACK had already had an economic impact of about $33 million on the community.
He presented, to much applause, Lutton and Delaware County Economic development director Brad Bookout to the crowd as the people most responsible, through their business recruiting efforts, for bringing CANPACK to the county.
Holcomb and Giorgi signed the steel beam before it was hoisted into place at the northwest end of plant.
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Watching from a distance, Jim Gorman, senior project manager with Blue Rock Construction, the general contractor assembling the immense structure, said the steel beam was going into the “coil canopy” that will shelter giant coils of aluminum that weigh 9,000 pounds each and provide the metal for the cans.
“Every day is an issue,” Gorman said of the bringing together the monumental construction project in the midst of supply chain reliability and hiring still hampered by a global pandemic. But the challenge of the previous nine months had been met.
“It should be making cans by fall,” he said.
Tom Johnson, CANPACK regional manager, said the company’s $380 million investment will result in a plant capable of manufacturing three billion cans annually when it’s fully operational in 24 to 36 months. The cans will be distributed primarily in the American Midwest and south.
“With anything, there is an ebb and flow,” Johnson of getting the facility to this point.
The “drive of the teams” engaged in the development of the plant brought it into reality, he said.
The is the second CANPACK factory in the United States. The first is located in Olyphant, Pa
“Delaware County and Muncie did a fantastic job” of selling the community, he said. The company had looked at a dozen different cities as a site.
It will employ 345 people. Some hiring has started with temporary company offices set up in Lofts at Roberts downtown at 420 S. High St. Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Johnson said the company was still looking for both hourly and salaried employees. He said those interested in employment can go online to us.canpack.com to apply or learn more about the company.
David Penticuff is the local government reporter at the Star Press. Contact him at [email protected]