Cup firm to hire 190 here

Sweetheart plans to expand local plant, cut back out of state

November 15, 2001|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Sweetheart Cup Co. said yesterday that it is paring down operations at out-of-state facilities and spending $5 million to expand its plant in Owings Mills and hire 190 more employees.

The maker of disposable cups, dinnerware and cutlery is closing its plant in New Hampshire and trimming operations at a facility in Missouri. Equipment from those plants is to be moved to Owings Mills, which is also the location of the company's headquarters.

Layoffs at the out-of-state locations are expected to approximately equal the number of jobs being added in Baltimore County.

"This is really big-time news today," said Sweetheart's president and chief operating officer, Michael Hastings.

"These are not low-wage jobs, these are highly skilled jobs," Hastings said.

He declined to say how much employees are paid.

The company has about 1,500 workers in Maryland, the majority in Owings Mills. Hastings said about 150 work in the company's distribution center in Hampstead.

The company chose to expand in Owings Mills, Hastings said, because the Baltimore County facility had extra space and consolidating the operations saves money.

The company has manufacturing facilities across the country, including plants in Dallas, Chicago and Augusta, Ga.

"There is a very good work force here [in Baltimore County] that has the skills that we need to run that type of equipment," Hastings said.

To help with the expansion, the state is giving Sweetheart a $2 million, five-year loan.

The interest rate will be 3 percent if the company raises employment at the Owings Mills plant to 1,750 by the end of 2002. For every 50 employees short of that goal, the interest rate will go up 1 percentage point to a maximum of 8 percent.

Maryland is also providing up to $81,400 in grants for work-force training and development.

Baltimore County will make available $25,000 to train hourly workers.

"Today's manufacturing environment requires workers to continuously upgrade their skills," Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said in a statement.

"We are pleased that Sweetheart is not only adding quality jobs for the region, but improving the skill levels of its current employees," the county executive said.

Although the manufacturing sector has been in recession for more than a year, business at Sweetheart is good, Hastings said.

"We are being affected not as negatively as other sectors - people always eat out," he said.

"We're not just paper cups; we're plastic cups, plates, plastic cutlery, straws - we have a diverse product line."

Hastings declined to give specific financial data other than to say sales are in the "billion-plus" range and that the company is profitable.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which the privately held Sweetheart must file because of its public bonds, the company had sales in fiscal year 2000 of $953 million and a profit of $12 million.

The results for fiscal 2001, which ended Sept. 24, have not been filed.

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