BELOIT — Although Pratt Industries in the Gateway Business Park has been in production since 2015, a grand opening ceremony was held Monday with Gov. Scott Walker on hand to celebrate.
From pizza boxes to the latest gadgets boxed up and shipped from Amazon, Pratt Industries is considered the fifth largest corrugated packaging company in the country. The company employs 140 area residents, and produces hundreds of thousands of cardboard boxes.
Pratt has opened over 68 packaging facilities around the world, with officials touting the Beloit location as the most efficient, technologically-advanced plant in the company’s arsenal.
Walker thanked officials for relocating to the state, and stressed the need to provide a diverse portfolio of opportunities for Wisconsin job-seekers.
“They recognized that it’s good to be close to the Chicago market, but on this side of the state line because here we’ve shown Wisconsin is open for business,” Walker said. “A good chunk of those companies using their boxes are from Wisconsin companies and we’re continuing to grow, so we want to help them continue to grow.”
Walker touted Wisconsin’s high labor participation rate, among the top 10 in the country, and the state’s lowest unemployment rate in over 15 years.
Walker also highlighted the “mega-market” opportunities companies in Rock and Kenosha counties have undertaken.
“There are tremendous opportunities for growth in this state,” Walker said. “This would not happen without great employers that represent suppliers, business partners and customers.”
Pratt’s products are used in all sorts of industries, but the food market is a huge one. Some customers include Sargento Foods and Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee. Local companies include Axium Foods in South Beloit and Seneca Foods in Janesville.
Each box is made from completely recycled paper. Monday’s event gave business leaders, Pratt customers and various local officials a chance to view the production process first-hand.
“This is a great day for the city and a great day for the state,” Pratt CEO Brian McPheely said. “This is one of the most modern plants in North America. We looked at coming to a number of states, but we thought the business environment in Wisconsin was actually the best in the area.”
The facility was a $60 million investment, officials said.
The process of making the company’s brown cardboard boxes begins with recycled materials being delivered to one of Pratt’s paper mills in Indiana, New York or Louisiana. At those facilities the envelopes, phone books, or other recycled products are broken down into pulp and made into sheets of paper “wool.”
The sheets of “wool” are then trucked to other Pratt facilities. Beloit receives its sheets from Valparaiso, Indiana. Workers use high-tech machinery to efficiently turn the “wool” into a corrugated sheet of cardboard. Those sheets then are able to be assembled into boxes of all shapes and sizes.