MANKATO — The molding machines in Mankato’s newest manufacturing plant are now chewing up plastic pellets and injecting them into molds.
Earlier this month, Imperial Plastics started moving in machines to its new Eastwood Industrial Park factory.
The company’s rationale for expanding in Mankato, including the region’s workforce, has been reinforced since it made the decision, Chief Financial Officer Angela Riley said.
“The technical programs and the general employment pool is top-notch,” she said.
Because Imperial Plastics is a contract manufacturer, demand for its services will spike and ebb. It has a partnership with MRCI to hire adults with developmental disabilities. The company also has tapped MRCI’s pool of recent immigrants in times of high demand.
At first, the new plant will be staffed with about 100 employees transferred from a Kasota location.
In discussions with the Mankato City Council, the company’s owner has said employment would probably reach 125. Pay would range from $10-$15 an hour for entry-level positions, rising to $25-$28 an hour for technicians and other skilled positions.
When the project was announced in December 2012, the company said its 69,000-square-foot facility could eventually double in size. Instead, the project doubled in the planning phases, to 124,000 square feet, the area of about two football fields.
And there is still space on the site to expand by a third.
Imperial Plastics is a plastic injection molding company, meaning it puts heated plastic pellets, called resin, into a mold.
One of its specialties is using two different resins in one mold at one time. This can help join two different materials seamlessly and with more consistency, compared with joining the materials with an adhesive.
Examples include a pen with a hard shell and a soft place to put your fingers or a multi-color cellphone case.
They also do “in-mold labeling,” where a label is made of molded plastic, just like the part itself. This can save time and cut the step of placing a label on a finished product.