Can-do: Exal plans 2 new plants
New plants will make containers for beer and a new foam medicine.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- A rapidly expanding can maker plans to build two more plants in Youngstown and add 280 jobs over the next two years.
Exal Corp. employs 270 after three expansions to its plant off Poland Avenue but needs even more production capacity, said Delfin Gibert, company owner.
The company succeeded first by making aluminum cans for personal care products, such as deodorants. One of its biggest jobs now is making cans for Axe, a popular body spray for men.
A $70 million plant to be built next year adjacent to the current plant in the Performance Place industrial park will provide production capacity for another growing business segment -- aluminum beverage bottles.
Exal started making the stylish bottles five years ago, and now two Exal customers, Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch, are expanding their offerings.
Beverage makers like the aluminum bottles because they can be sold for a higher price than beverages in aluminum cans, Gibert said.
"It has strong appeal. Consumers perceive it as a nice beer because it's in a nice package," he said.
Gibert has six production lines planned for the new plant, which will employ 140. With newer technology, the plant will produce the same volume -- 300 million cans a year -- as the current plant with about half the employees, he said.
Gibert also plans to add six lines to plants he has opened in recent years in Argentina, France and the Netherlands. The total cost for the worldwide expansion is $150 million.
Even that won't be enough, however.
Exal has been working with two pharmaceutical companies to make aluminum cans to dispense a new form of popular medications, Gibert said. He declined to be more specific but said they involve dispensing foam.
Salt Springs Road
These products will require a third Youngstown plant, planned for the Salt Springs Road Industrial Park, which also will cost $70 million and employ 140, he said.
Gibert said he is talking with city and state officials about financial incentives.
Gibert has been successful because he is innovative, said John Broks, global supply management director for Unilever, a British consumer products giant whose brands include Axe, Dove, Hellman's and Lipton. About 30 percent of the containers that Gibert's plants make worldwide are sold to Unilever.
Broks said Gibert creates new designs and shapes for cans and bottles that are attractive to the consumer, and he also finds better ways to incorporate mechanical devices such as valves and actuators.
Broks and Gibert were interviewed Thursday after Exal was honored by the Regional Chamber as its Manufacturer of the Year.
Gibert, whose family used to run a can business in Spain, started Exal in 1993 with 30 employees.