New York-based financial firm Medley Capital's Bennu Glass factory in Kalama, Washington, restarts after US$35M upgrade of former Cameron glass plant, plans to make 100 million wine bottles annually

LOS ANGELES , August 8, 2012 () –

The Bennu Glass LLC plant in Kalama, Washington, has restarted after a US$35-million upgrade and plans to make up to 100 million wine bottles a year at full capacity, according to an article in The Daily News, The Seattle Times reported on Aug. 6.

The first production-quality wine bottles were made at the plant on Aug. 1, according to the company, which is owned by New York-based financial firm Medley Capital.

Some kinks still need to be worked out at the facility, such as fixing the shrink-wrapping machine, which is causing production delays, said Bennu CEO Jerry Lemieux. The furnace, however works fine, he said.

The $13-million furnace was the biggest expense in the plant upgrade. The furnace, which is fueled by liquid oxygen and natural gas, heats the batch to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit and keeps the entire building warm, The Seattle Times reported.

When the plant is fully expanded, it will make 400,000 bottles daily, and these will be shipped to customers along the U.S. West Coast and in Western Canada. Supply contracts have been signed with two distributors and another two are in the works, said Lemieux.

Lemieux expects that the plant’s output will reduce imports of bottles from Mexico, China and Italy. These imports now account for 20% to 30% of the market in Bennu’s targeted selling area, reported The Seattle Times.

In 2011, California’s wine consumption increased by 13.6 million cases, which is more than Bennu’s production capacity, he said. The plant will make about 9 million cases a year, according to Bennu’s website.

So far, 87 employees have been hired at the plant, said Dwayne Wendler, plant manager, The Seattle Times reported.

Bennu bought the plant for $64.8 million in a March 2010 auction. It is one of six wine bottling operations on the U.S. West Coast.

The facility was built by the Cameron family of Pennsylvania in 2008 and shut down in September 2009 after failing to make usable colored glass using a risky electricity-based melter technology, reported The Seattle Times.

The primary source of this article is The Seattle Times, Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 6, 2012.

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