FORT WAYNE - Fort Wayne-based Aardvark Straws is celebrating the opening of its more than 100,000-square-foot paper straw manufacturing facility. The company was acquired by Wisconsin-based Hoffmaster Group Inc. in August and President Rory Leyden says the $9 million project is the result of a rapidly-growing demand for alternatives to plastic straws, especially on the coasts. Aardvark has already hired more than 100 employees for the facility and has plans to add at least 50 more by the end the of year.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Leyden says the decision to stay in Fort Wayne was an easy one.

"The business was founded there and we think there's some real expertise as it relates to how the product is manufactured," said Leyden. "Aardvark utilizes a proprietary process to manufacture what we believe is the best paper straw manufactured anywhere in the world and the ability to do that exists in Fort Wayne. So, it's really a testament to the talent, to the people that are in the business today and we think they're best equipped to help us grow."

Leyden says the new facility puts the company on track to meet its goal of increasing production capacity by 700 percent this year alone. He says if the plastic straw market continues to convert to paper straws, then Aardvark has additional space that it could expand into in Fort Wayne.

"That will always be sort of the center of our North American production," Leyden said.

Leyden says the paper straws produced by Aardvark are more earth- and marine-friendly, which is helping to meet the needs of cities and companies that have banned or are planning to ban plastic straws. He says paper straws are naturally degradable both in landfills and in a marine environment.

You can find more information on the positions Aardvark is looking to fill at the Fort Wayne plant by clicking here.