What is it about visiting a plastics factory that never gets old? OK, I'm biased — count me among the “pellet-heads” who love this industry, it's been a part of me for over 30 years.
Even longer if you count my early years as a kid running around my father's swimming pool slide business, the smell of fiberglass resin in the air. The truth is I've grown up with plastics, made a living writing about and promoting companies in the industry, and it really doesn't get old. I still find the whole thing fascinating.
I'm really happy to say that while making a few plant visits over the past couple weeks pursuing public relations opportunities for our clients, we saw first-hand what we think we already knew: the U.S. plastics industry is back, big time, and stronger than ever.
The hard times of 2008-2010 appear to be a distant memory. Back then, it was big news when a U.S. company purchased a machine (yes, a single machine). During one recent trip, every one of the three plants we visited was booming.
c Sept. 23: A stop at the former Molding Dynamics Inc. plant (now Alliance Precision Plastics) in Spindale, N.C., revealed a company that, like many others, struggled to get through the Great Recession. It not only made it through, but come out much stronger on the other side. So much so, they are building a new 17,500-square-foot addition to warehouse parts and materials, and make room for seven new injection molding machine workcells complete with robots and auxiliaries.
The new machinery and equipment will support a large order they recently won from a leading appliance manufacturer.
c Sept. 24: A long drive on a beautiful fall day to scenic Elbridge, N.Y., home of Tessy Plastics. Tessy is one of those companies you have to love: privately owned, independent, entrepreneurial, engineering-focused, and so good at what they do.
We saw first-hand how they have made huge inroads into the growing micro-molding market, producing high-tech mini parts for the medical industry for surgical applications.
To further support this business, Tessy recently purchased a former Honeywell plant, a 112,000-square-foot factory in nearby Skaneateles, N.Y., where it will move 25 molding cells totally dedicated to medical part production.
c Sept. 30: The following week, it was on a plane to Dallas, where we met up with our clients and drove out to Carrollton, Texas, home of Heritage Bag, the largest plastic garbage bag maker in the country — and maybe the world.
Up to 20 blown film lines were cranking away, producing bags of different colors and sizes for leading retailers around the country, some of them compostable, produced from post-industrial scrap.
Heritage has invested in numerous upgrades to its equipment, including bag machine rebuild packages to improve productivity. They have six huge plants around the country, with their headquarters in Carrollton, but the big story is they are in the process of building an all-new headquarters factory in nearby Roanoke, Texas.
Everything really is bigger in Texas. We toured the new factory, which is under construction, opening in early 2015, and saw what will become a 330,000-square-foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
So there you have it — three examples of companies in the U.S. plastics industry, not only surviving, but thriving. What a refreshing scene compared to the gloom and doom of just a few years ago. Let the good times roll!
Greg Hannoosh is president of Next Step Communications Inc.