By Don Shilling
The company’s president said he thinks demand is about to explode for its products.
YOUNGSTOWN — The president of Exal Corp. is confident he can begin construction of a new 400-employee plant this year even though financing is not complete.
Delfin Gibert, who hosted Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher at his original plant Friday, said he is hoping for about $20 million in government financing to assist in construction of the new plant in Salt Springs Road Industrial Park to make aluminum cans and bottles in specialty shapes.
Mayor Jay Williams and other city officials have the construction plans and are working on obtaining the assistance, Gibert said. They could not be reached to comment.
Fisher, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by George Voinovich, called Exal’s two plants in Performance Place on Poland Avenue among the most impressive he has seen. He said he will tell Gov. Ted Strickland that “we need to help this company.”
Gibert created Exal in 1993 with 25 employees and added a second plant in 2006. The two plants employ 400 and produced 470 million cans and bottles last year.
The new plant would be able to churn out 3.5 billion cans and bottles a year because it would include a new, higher-speed production method.
Gibert said he thinks demand is about to explode for its specialty-shaped products.
For example, Exal is producing 8.5-ounce aluminum bottles for Coca-Cola that have the traditional Coke-bottle shape. Gibert said the soft-drink maker is testing the bottles in five U.S. cities and plans to expand production nationwide.
Paul Goodemote, Exal operations manager, said other beverage makers are looking at introducing specialty shapes as well, including those that produce beer, wine, sparkling water and energy drinks.
He said the new plant would be efficient enough to ship products all over the world.
Exal is no stranger to innovation.
Gibert showed Fisher a can that it developed for toothpaste. A button is pressed, and the can delivers toothpaste in a gel.
Retail sales started last year. The cans were ordered by corporate giant GlaxoSmithKline for its Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpaste brands.
Another of Exal’s big-name customers is Anheuser-Busch, which uses Exal for its aluminum beer bottles. The plant was producing Bud Light bottles Friday that will be sold around St. Patrick’s Day next month. The bottles are green with shamrocks.
Gibert said he intends to build the new plant in stages.
He is trying to raise $100 million to construct the outer shell of the new plant and install two production lines. Eventually, he plans to add six more production lines at cost of an additional $300 million.
The state already has approved $4.3 million for site-preparation work and $747,500 for road work. The city has bought land for the project and committed to installing utilities.
Gibert said he also intends to add plants in Poland and Brazil next year. He already has two plants in Argentina and one each in the Netherlands and Switzerland. He also shares a French plant with another company.
Fisher said he visited the local plant to stress his support for federal-tax credits for companies that hire workers and his belief that banks need to be encouraged to resume responsible lending to small-business owners.