Expands plastics operations


February 02, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

GRAFCO Industries Limited Partnership is a company that knows how to change with the times.

The firm began in 1946 by printing labels on flat sheets of metal that were then used in making cans. In 1978, the Baltimore company branched into actually making the cans, mostly for the spice industry. Nine years later, it sold its metal decorating company and two years after that bought a plastic bottle maker in Atlanta.

Now, the family-owned company is moving further into the plastics business. The company plans to invest $5 million over the next three years to buy 10 new plastic bottle making machines, enough to produce more than 100 million bottles a year.

"If we are to continue to grow, we have to have new products," said GRAFCO President Timothy L. Frank. With the ability to produce both metal and plastic containers, "we can offer them whatever they want," he said.

Along with the new equipment, the company plans to double the work force at its Hanover plant during the next three years, boosting it to 100 from 50. Ten of the new workers will be hired in the coming months, Mr. Frank said. The Atlanta plant has 70 workers.

GRAFCO starting thinking about expanding into plastic bottles in the early 1980s. But the decision in the mid-1980s by McCormick & Co. Inc., the Sparks-based spice company, to shift much of its spices to plastic bottles increased the sense of urgency. With many of its customers competing with McCormick, Mr. Frank recognized that the conversion to plastic bottles would accelerate.

The company made its entry into the plastic business in 1988 by buying Bush Container in Atlanta for an undisclosed price.

Starting at $1 million a year, annual sales from the company's plastic bottle business have increased to about $10 million, equaling its sales of metal cans. Mr. Frank expects the growth in plastic sales to reach $25 million over the next three years, while can sales will likely remain at about $10 million.

GRAFCO's major customer is Durkee-French, a subsidiary of Specialty Brands of San Francisco, which buys about 25 percent of the company's product.

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