WAUPUN — The lid is closing on a longtime Waupun can manufacturer.
Silgan Containers, whose main facility has roots dating back to 1917, is closing its metal container manufacturing facilities in Waupun and Mt. Vernon, Missouri. The company anticipates closing both of the facilities during the fourth quarter of this year.
City officials estimated the Waupun plant employs 60 production workers and 15 administrative staffers.
The main plant at 505 Libby St. was constructed in 1917 by Libby, McNeill & Libby to serve as a milk condensing and packaging manufacturing facility. At the time, the 33-acre site was expected to add $150,000 to the tax roll and to attract 60-100 new families. The plant operated for 40 years, closing in January 1958.
In September, the factory was purchased by the Carnation Company, which began manufacturing cans there in early December. Large warehouses were constructed in 1966 and 1968, and in the early 1980s, the plant was operating as a subsidiary of the Nestle Company.
Silgan Containers took over the facility in September 1987, and has operated it ever since.
According to a press release, the plant closings are being completed in conjunction with the ratification last month of a new labor agreement at the Silgan’s Menomonee Falls metal container manufacturing facility. The agreement provides for the company’s complete withdrawal from the Central States Pension Fund. There have been reports for the last two years that the large union pension fund has a potential shortfall of more than $50 billion.
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The released said that while the company has had annual funding requirements to the Central States Pension Fund, the company’s payments to the Central States Pension Fund as a result of its complete withdrawal from the pension fund will be fixed and will be for a definite period not to exceed 20 years.
Product orders from the closed facilities will be absorbed in existing facilities and in a new plant to be leased somewhere in the Midwest.
Waupun mayor Julie Nickel said she has not received formal confirmation from Silgan corporate officials, but was told Silgan informed employees June 3 that the Waupun facility would close this fall. There also is no notification of layoffs at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website, which tracks layoff notices that are required by state statutes.
“Decisions regarding footprint optimization plans are always difficult, and we want to thank our dedicated employees at both facilities for their long service and their anticipated efforts during this transition,” Silgan President Adam Greenlee said. “At Silgan, these decisions are driven by a relentless pursuit to lower our overall cost structure, improve operating efficiencies and enhance our leading competitive position in our metal container business. Separately, we believe that withdrawing from the Central States Pension Fund and providing our Menomonee Falls employees with a company sponsored benefit plan is a better long-term solution.”
A message to company spokesman Robert B. Lewis was not returned as of press time. A company phone number in Waupun was disconnected Wednesday, although a Waupun employee contacted Tuesday evening indicated that information would have to be obtained from the corporate office.
According to its website, Silgan manufactures rigid packaging for consumer goods products with annual net sales of approximately $4.4 billion in 2018. Silgan operates 100 manufacturing facilities in North and South America, Europe and Asia. The company supplies metal containers in North America and Europe for food and general line products. The company is also a worldwide supplier of metal and plastic closures and dispensing systems for food, beverage, health care, garden, personal care, home and beauty products. In addition, the company is a supplier of plastic containers for shelf-stable food and personal care products in North America.