Beloit food processing company recognized by state

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BDN file photo (From left): Co-Founder of Tru Asceptics Scott Eckman, CEO Jim Hurley, Director of Finance and Administration Bernadette Bennett and Director of Engineering Stephen Kramer stand in front of an aseptics processor.

BELOIT - Food processing company TRU Aseptics has expanded over the last year to accommodate new production operations and additional staff.

The effort has been recognized at the state level as part of the annual review of economic development in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

In December 2016 TRU Aseptics purchased a 65,000 square-foot aseptics facility in Beloit, operated by WILD Flavors Aseptics from Chicago-based Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM).

The plant - producing preservative free minimally processed fruit, dairy, vegetable and plant-based juice ingredients for the food and beverage industry - is now in the midst of full operations and was validated and filed with the Food and Drug Administration in September, according to co-founder and CEO James Hurley.

Test products first ran in May, with commercial production starting in the fourth quarter of 2017, he said.

"It's hard to believe that one year ago we had just completed the purchase of the facility," Hurley said.

The company's expansion effort was listed in Gov. Scott Walker's top list of the state's 2017 economic development projects. According to WEDC, 2017 was a record year for growth, with 59 companies agreeing to locate or expand in Wisconsin. The projects are expected to retain nearly 30,000 jobs and result in more than $11.6 billion in capital investment across the state, according to WEDC estimates.

The TRU Aseptics listing in the WEDC report accounted for the company's expansion of the facility at 2924 Wyetta Drive, with the company updating the facility and installing new production equipment.

Topping the WEDC list of projects is Foxconn Technology Group's $10 billion capital investment in Racine County that could create 13,000 jobs. The tech manufacturer would receive $2.85 billion in tax credits in exchange for what is anticipated to be the largest economic development project in state history.

The second largest investment comes from Kwik Trip Inc.'s $309 million expansion in La Crosse, with 300 new jobs expected.

Haribo's $220 million planned manufacturing facility in Kenosha County rounds out the state's top three projects. The German candy maker's Wisconsin expansion could add 385 jobs and is set to be the company's first facility in North America.

The state is expected to provide a staggering amount of tax credits and loans for the projects listed in the report, mostly through the Foxconn agreement. For all other projects listed in the report, the state will provide over $118.76 million in credits or loans, according to WDEC. TRU Aseptics is expected to receive $275,000 in tax credits for the $7.2 million investment.

Heading into next year, Hurley said TRU Aseptics would be expanding production to process coffees, dairy products and plant-based liquid products including soy and almond milk.

"We have ordered new equipment to facilitate this growth and it is scheduled for installation in the first quarter of 2018," Hurley said.

Hurley touted the company's installation of a "state of the art bag-in-box" filler as the first of its kind in the western hemisphere, showing off the facility's production operations at Aseptipak 2017, the largest aseptic industry conference in the U.S., he said.

In terms of hiring, TRU Aseptics has brought on 20 staff, ranging from "highly skilled hourly employees and experienced salaried employees," Hurley noted.

"All of our key leadership positions in sales, engineering, operations, finance, administration and food safety and quality are filled with highly capable personnel," he said.

The company hired back many of the former aseptic plant employees, bringing back over 90 years of direct past experience, Hurley said. Future hires are expected, previous estimates claim around 50 staff could work at the Beloit facility.

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