WestRock announced Tuesday it plans to build a “state-of-the-art” corrugated box plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. When construction is complete, the company will close an existing plant in North Chicago, Illinois, about 20 miles away.
Construction on the more than 550,000-square-foot Wisconsin plant is expected to start this year — likely during the second quarter — and be complete in 2025, said Robby Johnson, senior manager of corporate communications at WestRock, via email. The company has not yet disclosed the estimated production capacity at the new facility.
The investment of approximately $140 million, partially offset by property sales, will increase WestRock’s production capabilities in the Great Lakes region, an area where the company says it’s experiencing growing customer demand.
“Investing in a new state-of-the-art corrugated converting facility elevates our production capabilities and better supports our end market strategy and margin improvement targets,” said CEO David B. Sewell in a news release.
New technology and automation at the facility is expected to improve factors such as product quality as well as sustainability thanks to lower energy consumption and waste reduction. It is also expected to lower manufacturing costs, and the digital capabilities are anticipated to offer real-time data to better inform decision-making and reduce unplanned downtime.
Pleasant Prairie is positioned between Chicago and Milwaukee, skewing toward the latter. The area has been built out over the last 15 years as major industrial and commercial companies create campuses along Interstate 94.
Uline, a shipping, packing and industrial product supplier, moved its headquarters to Pleasant Prairie in 2010 to create a 200-acre corporate campus and more than 1 million-square-foot warehouse to supply regional distribution centers. Amazon opened a large fulfillment center nearby in 2013 and last year expanded its presence by leasing a 1 million-square-foot distribution center. Plus, Foxconn infamously promised in 2017 that it would make big investments to move into the area, although the company has pivoted since initial construction and scaled back its plans.
The Pleasant Prairie location “was strategically chosen to allow for ample space to build a state-of-the-art facility where we can focus on operational efficiency and sustainable solutions to better serve the growing market,” Johnson said.
The North Chicago facility originally was a sheet plant, starting in 1926, and has undergone numerous alterations over the years, Johnson said. Eligible employees there will be able to apply for and transfer to available positions in Pleasant Prairie, he added.
WestRock’s footprint has undergone a number of changes over the last year. It announced a string of closures in 2023 as part of what it called “restructuring” due to low demand, and this week announced upcoming closures in Seattle and North Carolina. It also opened a new box plant in Longview, Washington, in November.