Lima, Ohio — A maker of water bottles is adding equipment and expects to hire 20 additional workers thanks to a huge increase in business from the nation's largest retailer.
50 Strong, a division of Precision Thermoplastic Components Inc., unveiled the growth plans at a June 14 gathering at the company's plant.
The company is ramping up to make 5 million water bottles, in two styles, for a Walmart private-label brand that will be stocked in about 3,800 to 4,000 stores around the country.
"For us, it's an enormous opportunity," 50 Strong CEO Ashley Thompson said. "The volume is significant. We'll be expanding with additional equipment and then adding additional jobs.
"It's also making a statement on the ability to do a 'Made in America' product and replacing Chinese competition," she said. "It's a huge win for us when you can provide a product that has a great design, great quality, and then offer it at price points at Walmart."
The company is adding assembly equipment and tooling initially, but anticipates the need to add machinery in the future as volumes ramp up, said Brendan Thompson, president of 50 Strong and Ashley's husband.
"As a result of the increased volume, we will be adding about 20 new jobs over the next 12 months. Those jobs will be added as demand picks up. Demand for water bottles is seasonal, so we'll add those jobs as needed," Ashley Thompson said. Employment will grow from about 100 to about 120.
The company had an existing supplier relationship with Walmart for other water bottles, and this private label work builds upon that.
Jason Leisenring is a regional manager for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and was at PTC for the announcement. "When it comes to creating jobs, we're putting our money where our mouth is," he told a crowd that included local and state officials.
Walmart has made a 10-year commitment to buy an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs, and this new work fits into that program.
"The business case for U.S.-made goods is as strong as it's been in decades," Leisenring said. Rising international shipping costs are a factor. Sourcing goods closer to the point of consumption also creates natural business efficiencies like quicker replenishment and better inventory control."
PTC owner Randy Carter said having the company continue to develop proprietary products is important for the future success of his firm.
"What this means for the company, our 50 Strong brand, it's really a big shot in the arm for that brand. It's always difficult getting a new product line started from scratch," he said.
"It's very significant. It's going to allow us to shift more of our focus from contract manufacturing more to proprietary products which are much more easy to control, more profitable, hopefully," said Carter, who is Ashley Thompson's father.
The new bottles will be made from low density polyethylene and the caps will probably be made from high density polyethylene, Brendan Thompson said.
It was only in April that a Walmart buyer called Ashley Thompson looking for a domestically made water bottle. And with the project on a tight time frame, 50 Strong only had two days to develop a proposal for the retailer. That included the design of both a new cap and new bottle to help meet cost parameters set by Walmart.
"It was mayhem. It's a mix of excitement and a mix of a bit of terror of can we get all of this information pulled together in the time that it's needed. There wasn't a lot of sleeping going on in those 48 hours, I can tell you that," Ashley Thompson said.
"We knew we had an enormous opportunity and we wanted to win the business," she said. "We knew this was a huge statement for the 50 Strong brand to win this business and also for 'Made in America' as well," she said. "This is a bold statement, but I'm going to say that [quick] turnaround of a product of that magnitude couldn't be done in China. It can only be done here in America."