HARBORCREEK, PA. — Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is teaming up with Port Erie Plastics Inc. to make a multi-purpose clip holding discs imprinted with sports team and NASCAR logos — as Port Erie has made a major investment into new digital printing equipment.
The digital inkjet printer from Pad Print Machinery of Vermont can print 208 of the plastic discs at a time and the design can be easily changed using a computer.
“In five minutes we have a product,” said Port Erie President John Johnson.
Port Erie bought one of the printers, which was installed just a few days before a Dec. 10 news conference. Officials of the company, which bought one of the printers and is leasing a second, think the digital printing technology will help them win new business.
Jim Kelly, who played for the Bills for 11 seasons and still lives in Buffalo, journeyed through a snowstorm blowing in off Lake Erie for the event at the custom molder in Harborcreek, just east of the city of Erie. Chairman and CEO William Witkowski said it was Port Erie’s first-ever news conference — and it starred a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Johnson, a 25-year Bills season ticket holder, sported a Bills sweater.
“We put a real value on dealing with good quality people,” Johnson said, before introducing Kelly. “Business is not only about the dollars.”
Kelly also talked about the personal connection, of dealing with a local company and American workers. “You’re only as good as the people that you can trust,” he said.
The injection molding machines stopped during the event, and shop floor employees watched, many recording the speeches with cell phone cameras.
Port Erie Plastics molds the discs from ABS resin.
Kelly has started a company called MyFanClip. The product is deceptively simple: A metal clip, the type found in any office, fitted with the brightly printed discs.
The former quarterback said he thought of the idea about eight or nine years ago, but kept putting if off. Kelly, who said he is “not a wallet guy,” had been using a rubber band to hold his money together.
“And of course, it kept breaking, so I went to a black binder clip, and I kept looking and saying, what if you could put your favorite team’s logo on it? And the more people I started talking to, people said, ‘What a great idea,’” Kelly said.
He took the idea to some board members at Hunter’s Hope Foundation, named in honor of Kelly’s young son, Hunter, who was diagnosed with the fatal nervous system disease Krabbe Leukodystrophy. He and his wife, Jill, established the charitable foundation in 1997. A portion of the proceeds from MyFanClip goes to Hunter’s Hope.
The product can be used for money clips, clips for snack foods and coffee bags, and paper clips. The packaging touts that it is “Made in the USA,” but that was not originally the case.
Kelly and his brother, Dan, who is vice president of MyFanClip, first went to China to produce them, figuring that would enable them to sell at a reasonable price of about $10 for a package of two. Dan Kelly, who went to China, said the supplier there was doing pad printing and silk screening, but there were quality problems.
“Every day was a challenge, to see what we were going to get,” Dan Kelly said. “So when we would do samples, it was nine weeks. Today we get a sample here, it literally is, from the time we send a sample over here to Port Erie to the time they manufacture our sample, is the time it takes me to drive from Buffalo to here. Where in China it was actually 9 weeks, and I didn’t know if what I was getting was going to be acceptable.”
John Cunningham, a consultant, advised the Kelly brothers to talk to Port Erie earlier this year.
“We came over and looked at their facilities, and from where we were a couple of months to ago to where we are now is like night and day,” Jim Kelly said.
“You know the old saying, the long boat from China? Well it’s a long, long, long boat from China. It takes forever,” Jim Kelly said. “And we knew we needed the quality control to be better, so that’s when we were introduced to Port Erie.”