CHICAGO — Hoping that the rapid changes and consolidation in the blown film industry can offer opportunities for a smaller manufacturer, Charter Films started making polyethylene blown film at a northern Wisconsin plant last month.
Charter, a new company that is a partnership of three plastics industry managers and the head of a venture capital firm, started operations Oct. 19 with a three-layer coextrusion line at its plant in Superior, Wis. A second monolayer line will start operations Nov. 30.
Charter's announcement at Pack Expo 98 in Chicago comes during a period of rapid consolidation in the film industry. Huntsman Packaging Corp. bought Blessings Corp. in May and CT Films in September 1997, and Exxon Chemical Co. disclosed late last month that it wants to sell its $125 million flexible films unit.
``The niche that we are looking for is a result of consolidation, but it is also coming from the customers telling us they want something else in a film supplier,'' said Mark Tesmer, vice president of sales and marketing.
The company is targeting the food and medical markets, but also is aiming at cosmetic and consumer markets.
Tesmer and two of the other owners, David Timm, vice president of technical services, and Chris Trapp, vice president and general manager, all held management positions with Atlantis Films in Atlanta before starting Charter.
The majority owner of the company is Todd Johnson, president of Reuben Johnson and Son Inc., a venture capital firm in Superior with interests in construction companies and shipyards.
Company officials would not disclose details of the investment, but local press reports quoted Superior officials saying the company is spending $4 million on equipment.
The company is purchasing both of its lines, the 83-inch, three-layer and the 103-inch, monolayer line, from German equipment manufacturer Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp. The line includes W&H Optifil technology to control film thickness.
The firm will employ 25 people when both lines are running, and will have the capacity to produce between 15 million and 18 million pounds of film a year in its plant. The 125,000-square-foot, former pizza facility is a refurbished, 80-year-old building.
Charter had to raise the roof on the four-story structure to accommodate the 70-foot blown film line, the company said.
Tesmer said the firm chose Superior, on the shore of Lake Michigan, because it is close to flexible packaging manufacturing centers in Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Superior also has good port and rail facilities, and trucking companies that regularly ship to Chicago in 36 hours for the area's timber industry, officials said. Good training programs at local colleges also played a role, Johnson said.