Towers of three-ton rolls of recycled cardboard stand stories high in the largest recycled box factory in the world.
The Pratt Industries corrugated box factory in Valparasio has gotten so big that it can no longer source its paper from New York and other distant places. Instead, it comes from about 90 feet away from a new recycled paper factory – billed as the world's most modern environmentally-friendly paper mill – that Pratt built next door at 275 E. Division Road in Valparaiso.
The Australia-based company's $250 million investment is the largest in Valparaiso history, and means 137 new jobs. The company has invested half a billion dollars in the city since 2000, Gov. Mike Pence said at an afternoon grand opening for the new mill.
"They could grow anywhere," he said. "That's not just a statement about our business climate. It's a statement about the people of Indiana. When you invest half a billion dollars, that's a statement of confidence about the people of Indiana.... This doesn't belong to people who have public responsibilities so much as it has to do with each and every one of you."
Pratt now employs about 500 workers in Valparaiso, making it the largest private employer in the city, Mayor Jon Costas said.
"Pratt Industries is part of the Valparaiso DNA, and we look forward to many years together," he said.
Pratt Founder and owner Anthony Pratt, who was just named North American packaging executive of the year for successfully taking on low-cost virgin container cardboard makers, said Indiana was an ideal place to build a recycled paper mill that will save an estimated 69,000 trees a day, or enough to cover 120 football fields.
"Let me be clear: Indiana is the greatest manufacturing state in the United States of America," Pratt said.
The paper mill recycles memos, newspapers and other products that are harvested from corporations in Chicago's Loop and from waste disposal companies within a 200-mile radius, such as from Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.
"If it's a recycle yard, it's likely going to end up here," plant manager Jay Hennessy said. "Well, probably, an agreement has to be reached, and a price negotiated."
About 65 percent of paper that's recycled at the sprawling 250,000-square-foot paper mill goes right next door to Pratt's corrugated box factory.
"We talk about reducing greenhouse gases," he said. "Well, this takes the trucks out of it."