Category: Plastics

Port Erie Plastics

My visit to Port Erie Plastics, in Harborcreek Township, was a reminder of how prevalent plastics are in our daily lives.

I was sitting at a table talking with some of the company’s managers about the business when Jon Connole, the sales and marketing manager, suddenly took notice of my keychain.

“That’s one of ours,” he said.

It turns out, he was right. My keychain is from Erie’s Munio, and it was made right there in Harborcreek.

As we toured Port Erie Plastics, I saw more everyday items coming off the production lines: Christmas tree stands. Storage bins. Pill boxes.

In a room tucked away in a corner of the 300,000-square-foot facility, specialty items were being imprinted by a laser printer. This division handles products made for a company run by Jim Kelly, the Buffalo Bills legend.

The broad range of products, serving a variety of industries, bear out the plastics-driven future that founder Henry Witkowski foresaw when he launched the business in 1953.

The company has grown since its founding, moving from Erie’s east side to its current site in Harborcreek in 1966.

“We were the only thing out here then,” said William Witkowski, Henry’s son and the current owner and CEO.

The Harborcreek facility, which has steadily grown in the decades since, is ready for another expansion (more on that later), in order to accommodate the steady growth of business.

The company, which has hired more than 30 people in the past few weeks, is looking to hire about another 20, said John Johnson, the company’s president.

“It’s new customers and new products,” he said of Port Erie Plastics’ recent growth.

About Port Erie Plastics: The company, which started with one injection molding machine, now runs 90 machines and specializes in custom plastic injection molding.  The company also offers other services to customers, and runs its own in-house tool room and engineering facilities. The company has more than 400 employees, both in its main facility on the east side of Troupe Road and at its 275,000-square-foot warehousing facility, just a bit south on the west side of Troupe Road. The company has been in growth mode for the past 15 to 20 years, Johnson said, with an extra boost coming in the past several months.

Why Erie County:  The leadership team at Port Erie Plastics sees many positives in the quality of life that the community offers for workers. That includes community assets, recreational opportunities and a relatively easy commute. In addition, the company has seen the advantages of having Penn State Behrend’s  plastics engineering programs in their backyard. In fact, the Witkowski family joined with other Erie-area plastics companies to help initiate and develop the program at Behrend. As a result, Port Erie Plastics and other local plastics companies enjoy the benefits of Behrend-trained interns and employees.

Challenges of Erie County: While Port Erie Plastics is able to find workers for its plastics engineering positions, filling general employment positions remains a challenge. The company struggles to find qualified workers. As that demand for workers is only expected to increase in the next decade, Port Erie Plastics identified a need for more pathways to manufacturing jobs – whether in high school or through a community college. Another challenge of being located in Erie County is even more pressing, however: Port Erie Plastics has been frustrated by delays in getting a permit to add on to their existing facility. The plans originally called for work to begin in the spring; due to delays, now the company is worried about getting the work done before winter sets in.

Fun fact: The Witkowski Building, part of the Engineering Complex at Penn State Behrend, was named for William Witkowski.

Address: 909 Troupe Road, Harborcreek, PA 16421 or www.porterie.com.

Accudyn Products Inc., Millcreek Township

When I walked into the production area at Accudyn Products in Millcreek Township, I was immediately struck by how bright, clean, and high-tech the operations were. This is not the atmosphere that most people associate with manufacturing, but it is the reality for many of our Erie County manufacturers today.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that manufacturing is not a dirty profession,” Accudyn co-owner Tom Bly told us.

As we toured Accudyn, a family-owned custom injection molder, we saw workers monitoring machines that churned out plastic parts, from tiny shards to large, complex pieces. We saw crews in tooling and molding, in engineering and office support. We also took a peek inside the cavernous addition that is going up behind Accudyn’s Yoder Drive facility.

That extra 6,000 square feet on the facility’s footprint will help accommodate recent growth in the business that was actually sparked, in part, by the company’s secondary facility in Chihuahua, Mexico.

The Mexico manufacturing operation has created a greater need for jobs here in Erie County, including for support services, such as engineering and sales. In fact, Accudyn has added 55 jobs in the past 20 months in Erie County. The Mexico facility also has opened doors to other business sectors, such as the automotive industry.

About Accudyn: The company, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, is a custom injection molder. It handles engineering, tooling, and molding for international customers in a variety of markets – automotive, appliance, electronics, building and construction, heavy trucking, and medical. The company has about 125 employees at its Millcreek Township location and also employs about 270 workers at its manufacturing facility in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Why Erie County: Accudyn is family owned, with a second generation of the Bly family working at the company. Owners Peg and Tom Bly say that they stay in Erie County because, quite simply, Erie County is home. But Accudyn has also benefitted from another Erie County advantage – namely, proximity to Penn State Behrend and its plastics engineering program. Accudyn routinely plucks interns and new hires from Behrend’s engineering program.

Challenges in Erie County: That Behrend advantage is not lost on other plastics companies in the region, which means the Blys often face competition from larger companies to hire recent graduates. The Blys also said that they experience a shortage of workers trained in the skills needed for toolmaking and machining. In addition, they have encountered challenges in township zoning when it comes to expanding their Millcreek facility.

Address: 2400 Yoder Drive, Erie PA 16506

 

Coming up next week: We head out to Better Baked Foods in North East

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