If Bet Jandron has her way, Recycled Plastics Industries Inc. never will have a layoff.
``We want to be able to fill our lines before we grow again,'' said the operations manager. ``Last fall, we held off on hiring more people until we were through the winter and sure that we could keep the people on.''
The plastic lumber maker, based in De Pere, is up to three extrusion lines with about one dozen employees in a 17,500-square-foot facility.
The company ran its first board a year ago. But this is RPI, part two. Industry veteran Lee Anderson originally started the firm in 1989 in Green Bay, Wis. Officials sold the operation to U.S. Plastic Lumber Corp. in 1997. In 2001, Boca Raton, Fla.-based USPL shut down the Green Bay operation as part of companywide plant closings. At the time, it was up to seven extrusion lines with 11 employees.
The new RPI, located just minutes south of Green Bay, has rehired most of those former employees. Anderson is among three investors in the new operation, but he is not involved day-to-day. It's Jandron's show, he explained in a recent telephone interview. She's been with RPI since 1991.
RPI will target the same markets, including decking, Jandron said in an interview at RPI offices on April 15. Within the past month, RPI appointed a new general manager, Paul Cantwell.
Together, they are focused on not growing the operation too quickly.
``If we keep it simple, we keep everybody happy ... and things run smoothly. We don't want to get too complicated,'' Cantwell said.
Jandron herself has been in the plastics industry since 1984, when she started with Evenflo Co. Inc., a baby products maker based in Piqua, Ohio.
``I believed in the first RPI and I believe in the second one,'' she said.
``This year, my focus and my dream is that I want to secure our current customers. I want to be able to provide for them, give them quality, give them the lead time and turnaround that they need. I want to settle and even out and run smoothly. Then, maybe next year, we'll add a fourth line.''
The firm expects to consume 3 million pounds of post-consumer and post-industrial plastic this year. Currently, the firm runs 24 hours a day, five days a week, and officials are exploring weekend shifts every other weekend through the summer. They would not disclose sales.
``We will grow,'' Cantwell promised. ``We don't know what percentage yet, but we do what we have to do. Things are very optimistic and promising. But again, we are still a young company, technically in start-up mode.''
The uncertain economy did not slow things down for RPI. Jandron looks back on their first year of business with pride.
``We came out the door running,'' she said. ``We have done well. We thought that we'd probably shut down between Christmas and New Year's, and we couldn't.
``We went down to one machine, but since the first of the year, we've had two machines running all the time and in late February, we started the third machine.''