Phoenix Closures Inc. of Naperville, Ill., has aggressively upgraded its operations and, in Newport, Tenn., launched the company's third plant, targeting East and Southeast markets.
``Basically, we have retooled the company,'' said President Bert Miller.
Over six years, Phoenix Closures has invested about $57 million. ``Putting our money into better [injection molding] presses, molds, lining and assembly equipment, and facilities is helping us grow the business'' faster than others in the closure market, Miller said by telephone. The firm does not disclose sales figures.
The Newport facility employs 25 and, by midyear, will operate six presses of 500-750 tons. Automated manufacturing, warehousing and offices occupy 200,000 square feet on 28.5 acres. A rail siding adjoins the structure.
Phoenix Closures took possession of the Newport building in late 2004, installed infrastructure over several months and began operations in October. The company spent about $6.5 million for the land, improvements and equipment including molds and machines for molding and liner insertion.
Over almost three decades, previous building occupants used a now-removed, free-standing sewer plant that was suitable for warehousing - but not for running a plastics processing business focused on Food and Drug Administration-type applications.
A grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development addressed the issue of sewer capacity and connection. During the summer, Tennessee invested $535,000 for installation of a 3.5-mile-long sewer line extension to reach the Phoenix Closures property and other manufacturers in the area.
``We applied for a fast-track grant,'' said Don Hurst, executive director of the Newport/Cocke County Economic Development Commission.
Rampant growth caused crowding in Phoenix Closures' Naperville and Davenport, Iowa, facilities and prompted the Tennessee expansion. ``We filled up Iowa in five years,'' Miller said, referring to the Davenport plant, which became operational in April 2000.
Miller opted for another site - in hindsight, a prescient move. ``When we embarked on this [Tennessee] project, we did not know fuel would double in price,'' he said. Newport, about 50 miles east of Knoxville, has easy access to major highways.
Phoenix Closures employs 340, designs and makes stock and custom closures ranging from 22-120 millimeters, and continues a legacy of family ownership extending back to 1890.
Miller's son, Albert Jr., joined the business in 2003 and represents the family's sixth generation in the business.
Among custom closure developments, the firm created container caps for Dean Foods Co.'s single-serve Milk Chugs and Nestle SA's Carnation Coffee-mate coffee creamer and Taster's Choice instant coffee.