At least two dozen plastics processors and recyclers operate among the 1,200 businesses in a city that bills itself as ``exclusively industrial.''
And as far as local industry says and numbers show, Vernon, Calif.'s plastics industry is continuing to grow.
Vernon said its 15 largest-volume plastics industry electrical accounts increased their kilowatt-hour usage an average of 23 percent in the first five months of 2007 vs. a comparable period last year. The plastics category recorded the highest growth among a dozen industry segments it tracks.
Low-cost electricity helps retain and convince prospective companies about Vernon's viability, city officials said. The city of Vernon has generated its own electricity since 1933 and boasts that it does so at 30-40 percent less than investor-owned utilities such as Southern California Edison and about 15 percent less than the nearby Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
``There are many economical reasons so many plastic companies are located in Vernon,'' said Pete Grande, chief executive officer of Command Packaging in Vernon and president of the California Film Extruders and Converters Association. ``The way we are welcomed and treated by the city is something I don't believe is found in many other places.''
While the 5.2-square-mile municipality near Los Angeles touts its heavy concentration of industry, only 92 people reside in the town, mostly city employees. Nearly 44,000 flow into the city every work day.
Even with its current industrial size, Vernon wants more.
To help its case, the city retained development services firm Kosmont Cos. of Encino, Calif., to rate Vernon's attributes with 12 comparable cites in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas. Kosmont's 39-page report, released in April, ranked Vernon first in utility rates for electricity and water, third in business license taxes and sixth in property taxes.
``Over the primary categories of local public agency costs and taxes, Vernon is the most cost-effective and competitively priced city,'' the report said.
But it observed, ``the State of California corporate income tax [8.84 percent] is high enough that, when compared to certain states, it alone can eliminate local cost competitive advantages that a city such as Vernon may offer.''
Mark McNabb, a Vernon industrial development consultant, said the city will do what it can to help more manufacturing companies expand or relocate there.
One example of this willingness is Norton Packaging Inc., which recently went through the permitting process to expand its Vernon location.
``City officials and city inspectors take a hands-on approach [and are] helpful in getting you what you want,'' said Norton's Joe Schrick, manager of the Vernon plant.
Norton has operated in the city since 1958 and, on its 73,000-square-foot site, employs 100 and uses 21 injection molding machines including four all-electric units.
The site, which makes rigid plastic containers, absorbed some equipment from a Hayward, Calif., facility that Norton closed.
``If it was not for energy [benefits], we would have to move out,'' Schrick said.
Crown Poly Inc. gets the advantages of Vernon utility rates while carrying another municipality's postal address.
The portion of Crown Poly's 120,000-square-foot facility with its machinery, along with the electrical panel, is in Vernon, while the front of the structure is in Huntington Park. Crown Poly has operated in Vernon since 1991 and moved to its current site in 2003.
Crown Poly recently created a reinforced-bottom-seal Hippo Sak product line that can hold groceries usually requiring several nonreinforced bags. The line could eliminate double bagging and decrease baggers' handling time, General Manager Catherine Browne said.
Browne withheld specifics, but said the firm has boosted its workforce by 35 percent during the past 18 months and is maintaining double-digit growth in annual sales.
Command Packaging has added equipment, raw material storage capacity and space for manufacturing custom plastic bags, largely for food-service and retail market uses.
For equipment, Command plans to invest $1.5 million this year after spending $2.5 million during 2006, according to CEO Grande. The company added three blown film extrusion lines, bringing the firm's total to 15; and four bag-making systems for a total of 23. It also installed a six-color printing press, giving it seven printing machines in all.
In September, Command installed five new storage silos, each having capacity to hold 200,000 pounds of resin pellets.
The firm took another 36,000 square feet in a building it owns and now occupies 140,000 square feet on 10 acres.
Command Packaging was formed in 1989, employs 200 and expects to continue its 15 percent annual growth in sales.
Los Angeles-based processor Poly Pak America Inc. moved to Vernon in 2003 from a site in Los Angeles and immediately benefited from the city's utility program, according to President Timothy Guth. The 40,000-square-foot plant employs 14, he said.
Using an eight-inch Merritt extruder, the firm primarily recycles and sells post-industrial low density and linear low density polyethylene and may begin recycling high density PE.
For Primo Plastics sales Vice President Mark Lorenz, Vernon is a city with foresight, excellent utilities and a pro-business outlook. The Lorenz family-operated business began in 1963, moved into regrind and recycling services and, in 1976, left Modesto, Calif., for Vernon, where Primo has operations in three buildings. The city said the plastics recycler employs 50.
Other companies with plastics operations in Vernon include Los Angeles Fiber Co., Joe's Plastics, Al's Plastics, injection molder Rehrig Pacific Co., fabricator Angus-Campbell Inc., PWP Industries Inc., Edris Plastics Manufacturing Inc., Winplast LLC, Kal Plastics Inc., and foamed plastic insulation and cushioning products maker Airepack Materials Inc.