Owens-Illinois: $8 million upgrade for Waco plant

The 70-year-old Owens-Illinois glass plant in Waco has received city council support for an $8 million upgrade to keep beer-bottle production flowing.

The Owens-Illinois glass plant in Waco has secured a permit to spend another $8 million at the facility on Beverly Drive as it continues to upgrade the decades-old plant and improve its ability to control emissions, a spokesman for the company confirmed.
“This is the continuation of a multiyear investment in the Waco plant that O-I announced in late 2012,” Ryan McCarthy, regional communications specialist, said in an email message. “We have been installing equipment to reduce air emissions, as well as continuous emissions monitoring systems, in phases throughout the plant.”
Once the work is done, Owens-Illinois will have spent about $74 million to keep beer-bottle production flowing.
The plant opened in 1944 and employs about 300 people, the vast majority of them union members.
Local governments have helped the plant in its pursuit of upgrades.
Waco City Council and McLennan County Commissioners Court in December 2012 approved an $805,000 grant through the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp., which is funded jointly by the city and county.
Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said the entities did not want Owens-Illinois to consider leaving the city.
“There was a competition between our site and a sister site for the expansion,” Collins said, adding that the competing site was out of state. “We worked with them to help secure that for our community rather than that investment and potential job creation going somewhere else.”
Since then, Owens- Illinois has steadily been spending to meet its goal of extending the life of its plant near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“This is another phase in that effort,” McCarthy said of the recently issued building permit. “It will not impact jobs at the plant and does not indicate a change in production, but it should contribute to the efficient operation of the plant overall.”
In 2010, Owens-Illinois received a Texas Enterprise Project Designation for its Waco plant to stabilize operations and employment.
With the designation, it qualified to receive sales tax reimbursements of $2,500 for each job it retained, according to a statement Waco’s chamber released.
The breaks could be as much as $1.25 million during a five-year period, and an estimated 307 jobs would be protected.
Owens-Illinois indicated it likely would spend the funds, which were generated by the governor’s Economic Development Office, on energy-efficient equipment.
Spokeswoman Beth Peery said Ohio-based Owens-Illinois operates 19 plants in the United States and Canada, and 77 plants elsewhere around the world. It creates packaging and bottles for some of the largest food and beverage brands, including companies like Miller/Coors, Sierra Nevada, Pepsi, Heinz and Campbell’s.
Published reports indicate that Owens-Illinois holds the position of the largest manufacturer of glass containers in North America, South America, Asia-Pacific and Europe.
About half of all glass containers worldwide are made by Owens-Illinois, its affiliates or its licensees.
Operations in Waco are dominated by the production of beer bottles, and most employees are members of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers Union