Investing more than $10 million this year to consolidate its St. Louis operations and update its New York facility, Alpha Packaging Inc. has changed its name and boosted its sales by 33 percent.
``Overall the year's been very good, especially in a year when there's a lot of economic difficulty. We've gone full speed,'' said Dave Spence, president of Alpha Packaging Inc., by telephone.
The company formerly was known as Alpha Plastics Inc., a name that caused confusion because of a few other companies with the same name.
Spence said Alpha has evolved from its roots as a pharmaceutical bottle blow molder. Today it offers PET and high density polyethylene containers for nutritional and personal-care products as well.
``We're growing with the baby boomers,'' Spence said, including packaging for vitamins, weight-loss and weight-gain products, antioxidants and cosmetics.
``We've seen growth across the board, but we are still very aggressive on reinvestment,'' Spence said. ``In this day and age, some haven't done it and they probably regret it. Technology really is paying dividends.''
The company expects sales of $32 million this year, compared with $24 million a year ago.
Alpha had its St. Louis operations spread over four buildings in a couple of industrial parks, but in May completed a $9 million consolidation into one 211,000-square-foot complex. The effort started in August 2001 but had been delayed after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
Spence said Alpha hired Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. of Bolton, Ontario, to do the plant layout, stressing efficiency and easier mold changes. He also pointed to Dan Creston, Alpha executive vice president, as guiding the revitalization.
``We even have room for 50 percent growth in machinery. In the past, we've always been space-constricted,'' Spence said.
The new St. Louis layout includes an 80,000-square-foot warehouse with 30-foot ceilings. Alpha hired about 15 more people, raising its St. Louis staff to 122. Alpha runs a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation.
Spence was equally excited about the New York division, where a $1 million infusion helped stave off its closing and boosted sales from $4 million to $6 million. Alpha acquired Gutmann Plastics of New York in December. He described the situation as being ``a kind of Smithsonian of blow molding'' that was in need of updated, high-speed equipment. Former Alpha employee Mike DeFazio rejoined the company and led the effort as vice president and general manager of the facility.
The New York branch rents 70,000 square feet of space and employs about 60. It is applying for state money for more equipment and training.
Spence said the plant has been a natural fit, helping Alpha serve its Northeast customers and also providing better access to the European market through the New York City port.