By Eileen Persike
Expera Coated Products’ recently announced expansion will play a role in the construction of a new Boeing airplane. Expera hosted a ceremony Tuesday at the former Printpack building to recognize the partnership between Expera Coated Products and Northeast Wisconsin Development Corporation (NEWEDC). Expera has entered into a lease agreement with NEWEDC for financing the expansion which will allow Expera to bring new coater technology to their production process.
During the ceremony, Expera Rhinelander mill manager Jeff Verdoorn explained they will be making the backing paper on which carbon fiber will be cast.
“We’ll be making a release liner that allows the people that make fiber composite to form their product on top of our sheet,” Verdoorn said. “Our sheet is then removed and thrown away.”
Boeing is not an Expera customer, but Boeing requires Expera Coated Products release liner is used by their direct customer.
“The 787 Dreamliner was the project where we got our start,” Verdoorn explained. “It took us six years to develop a sheet that was qualified for Boeing to use.”
According to a promotional Boeing video, half of the 787 is made with composite materials which makes it a “game-changing airplane,” with fuel efficiency increased by 20 percent. The new 777X, according to Boeing, has a large, curved aerodynamic wing design also made of composite materials.
Production of the specialized release liner has been increased to the point that the existing coaters were full, making timely expansion necessary, Verdoorn said.
“Projects like this would not be possible without effective public and private partnerships, in addition to the overwhelming support we received from our United Steel Workers Union Locals 15 and 1778,” Verdoorn added.
“This expansion will provide additional jobs with good pay and benefits for our families,” said Local 15 president Bob Smith. “It will also help to build the future of our mill as we continue to grow.”
Last month the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands approved a $15 million State Trust Fund loan to Oneida County to finance the purchase and renovation of the vacant Printpack building and purchase the related capital equipment on behalf of Expera Specialty Solutions.
This was the final step in a resolution backed by the Oneida County Board authorizing the county to borrow the money for the purpose of financing a “pass-through loan” to the Northeast Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
Production is expected to begin in July, 2017.