Governor Eric Holcomb, Mayor Matt Gentry and several others raised a glass to the new MonoSol plant in Lebanon on Thursday.
The grand opening, complete with a toast and “film”-cutting ceremony, was supposed to take place in May with a week’s worth of celebrations. But with the pandemic, the festivities had to downsize and reschedule to accommodate for COVID-19.
MonoSol manufactures water soluble film that can be used in dissolvable hospital laundry bags, Tide Pods, embroidery toppers and more. The Merrillville-based company is a division of global chemical and material science company Kuraray.
Despite Kuraray’s numerous international locations, several MonoSol production facilities started right here in Indiana.
“I have been a big proponent of building and being in Indiana because we’ve had such great success,” MonoSol president and CEO Scott Bening said. “And this building and these people are the perfect example of why we’ve done this for three decades.”
Before the film-cutting ceremony, Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry expressed his excitement at having MonoSol locate here in Lebanon out of all the other locations available in the state.
“Lebanon MonoSol is a huge win for us,” Gentry said. “It’s great to see we’re making a product here in Lebanon that can be bought around the world, and just from a corporate citizenship standpoint, [MonoSol is] who you want to have in your community.”
Bening mentioned that when they were reaching out to different mayors and scouting several locations for the new facility before 2018, Gentry was the only one to take a trip up to Merrillville and ensure that MonoSol would be a good fit for the Lebanon community.
“That was almost a slam dunk when [Gentry] did that, to see what we were,” Bening said. “Because … he wanted to make sure that we were gonna be right for this region and this area.”
Holcomb also looks forward to seeing how MonoSol’s presence in Indiana will benefit both parties and lead to more production in the future.
“What’s so darn exciting about it is just the growing global demand for your products and your products-to-be,” Holcomb said at the film-cutting. “You keep innovating, you keep investing in the state of Indiana, and you keep employing Hoosiers … There’s just no surprise that Indiana remains the No. 1 state in the nation in terms of manufacturing.”
Even though the grand opening was delayed by COVID-19, MonoSol production was not. Bening kept the Lebanon facility working throughout the pandemic because they supplied film for essential cleaning products and hospital laundry bags. Bening said MonoSol is the sole supplier of dissolvable laundry bags for the National Health Service in England, the health care system in Japan, and roughly 25% of hospitals in the U.S.
Bening praised the workers at the Lebanon plant for their tenacity and dedication to working through the pandemic.
“To start a facility up in those conditions and have it running as well as it has and have the people be as safe as they have been is a testament to the folks we hired,” Bening said. “I keep going back to why this is such a success, and it’s all about the people.”
Workers were temp-checked every day before going into the facility, mandated to wear masks, and socially distanced during work to try and decrease the spread of the virus. The fact that MonoSol was able to keep up with increased demand while ensuring a safe environment for their workers impressed the governor.
“You have proven how to do this not just successfully, but safely,” Holcomb said. “And it’s good not just for the soul, but for the Hoosier psyche — to see folks come together in such a way and execute a plan so flawlessly.”
Bening and MonoSol went even further in their work during the pandemic, though. They also donated extra PPE to first responders, participated in various matching programs, donated to food pantries, and helped fund Lebanon’s small business relief fund. For local restaurants Parky’s and Backroads BBQ, MonoSol held “Takeout Takeover” events where MonoSol employees could each purchase up to $70 worth of food, and the company would foot the bill and a 25% tip.
Both Bening and Gentry mentioned these feats during their film-cutting ceremony speeches. After the ceremony, the room toasted to MonoSol and the State of Indiana and participated in a Japanese tradition as a nod to their parent company Kuraray.
During the groundbreaking ceremony in 2018, Bening, Gentry, and others painted the right eye on a Japanese Daruma doll, which is meant to provide good luck so you can achieve your wish. At the grand opening, MonoSol executives, the governor, and the mayor painted the left eye to signify that they had completed their goal or wish.
Holcomb toured the facility afterwards, meeting with the workers and asking questions about the products they made. The more he learned about MonoSol and the impact it’s made on the local and global community, the stronger his faith in what the Lebanon plant could accomplish, he said.
“What is so meaningful — beyond the 90 Hoosiers that are gonna be employed here — is your corporate citizenship and commitment to the community around you,” Holcomb said. “You reached out to those front line folks in a time of high anxiety and folks dealing with uncertainties — but this was a place of certainty. This is a place where folks can look to.”