Standing inside the new building that will house Printpack Inc. is a jaw-dropping experience. The structure encompasses five acres and is on target to be finished by June 30, according to Jeremy Van Camp, human resource manager for the company. “Some days they are working here six days a week,” he said. “Miron Construction is the primary contractor and they are doing a great job.”
However, once the structure is finished, the real work begins of moving in giant machinery that will be used to make a variety of packaging, from Frito-Lay chip bags to candy bar wrappers. “We’re figuring we won’t be completely moved until into 2014 and may be longer,” said Van Camp. “And then there’s going to be a big window of time where we will be training people on new machinery.”
Printpack was founded in 1956 by J. Erskine Love Jr., who started this enterprise in a basement. “We had one employee and one piece of equipment. I was the employee and the equipment was a used cellophane bag machine,” he is quoted as saying on the company’s website. “We rented space in the basement of an office in Sandy Springs (Georgia) and, in every sense of the word, we were truly basement operators. But we were able to survive.” Now Printpack is headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., and today 27 manufacturing plants are located all across the United States, mainly on the eastern seaboard. There are also plants in Poland, China, Mexico and England.
Before Printpack became a household name in the Rhinelander area, Daniels Packaging was its forerunner. That company was housed in a structure that was built on Kemp. St. in 1923. “That building has been added on to quite a few times over the years,” said Van Camp. “The Kemp St. structure is as big as this new one, but it is built on many different levels so production isn’t as efficient with the technologies we have today.” Another challenge with the current structure is where the trucking docks are located. “Delivery drivers have to go across the road to be able to back into them,” said Van Camp. “That means traffic has to stop.”
Construction of the new building began last September and it is located on the Hwy. 17 by-pass, just south of Shopko. The new structure will sit on 36 acres, leaving plenty of room for parking and even expanding in the future if needed. Right now, Printpack employs 141 workers and 30 more are expected to be hired by the time the new plant is in full operation.
The Rhinelander plant specializes in making the packaging for Frito-Lay chips and candy bars, churning out wrappers for both the cold and hot pack processes. “One process does not use any heat to seal a package,” said Van Camp. “You can’t use heat when packaging candy bars because they could melt.”
So far, much of the outside of the massive building is completed, and now workers are getting the inside floor ready to be poured with cement. On any given day, between 60 to 100 people can be working at the new plant. All the subcontractors were required to bid out their work. Some of those subs are local, including Musson Brothers, in Rhinelander. “They’ve been doing a lot of work here,” said Van Camp.
One thing Van Camp has been asked a lot about lately is the destiny of the old Printpack building once the move is complete. “Well, we’re looking into it but nothing definitive has been determined,” he said. “We’re still using it, so it’s hard to market it right now.” The company is also planning on having an open house at the new facility, in the near future, but they haven’t set a date for that.
Inside the building, with the sound of machinery filling the air and the work progressing at a steady pace, Van Camp explains why Rhinelander was so lucky in keeping Printpack in the community. (Two Printpack plants recently closed.) “The reason this plant is being constructed is because of the people who work here,” he said. “The work ethic here is phenomenal and the company realizes that. There’s a wonderful culture among the people who work at this Printpack, and the company saw that as important enough to stay in this community.”