The construction site was a muddy mess, but the message from Ball Corp. executives in Rome was crystal clear Tuesday afternoon.

The new Ball aluminum cups that will be manufactured in Rome are expected to be a sustainability game-changer in the way Americans partake of their favorite beverages.

Sustainability was clearly the word of the day as corporate executive after corporate executive spoke of Ball’s commitment to changing the way Americans consume everything from soft drinks to alcoholic beverages.

The Ball executives were joined by a plethora of state and local dignitaries for the official groundbreaking of their new $200 million dollar plant off Ga. 53 northeast of Rome.

John Hayes, Ball Corp. chairman, president and CEO, said the “infinitely recyclable” aluminum cup was developed over a seven-year research and development period. When the new plant comes online around the end of the year it will be capable of producing half a billion of the aluminum cups a year.

In addition to its environmental sustainability, Hayes said the $200 million investment in the new plant is representative of both economic and social sustainability on behalf of its employees and customers.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity here in front of us and we need to seize the moment,” Hayes said.

The new Rome plant represents “an opportunity to profitably grow our business and meet the needs of our customers,” said Dan Fisher, COO for Global Beverage Packaging at Ball.

Scott McMurray, deputy commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said the Ball project highlights a couple of issues the state looks for in attracting additional business: innovation and sustainability.

A lot of behind-the-scenes work went into getting the site pad ready, said Floyd County Commission Chairman Scotty Hancock.

He called the Ball expansion a good project for Rome and Floyd County.

“These are quality jobs with a quality company,” Hancock said.

Sebastian Siethoff, a general manager for Ball, told the huge crowd huddled under a tent during a driving rain Tuesday that the aluminum cup “will be going to the big game” in a very short period of time.

The company played a video clip of a focus group that examined the aluminum cup. One unidentified man said he would be willing to pay a little bit more for an aluminum cup that was good for the environment as opposed to the old traditional plastic cup.

Ball is betting more than $200 million that the concept of recyclable cups a consumer might take to a picnic or sip their beverage from at a ballgame will sweep the country rapidly.

The Rome plant will initially produce 20-ounce cups, but will be capable of manufacturing the cups in a variety of sizes as market conditions warrant.

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