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Hagerstown plastic bottle maker expanding operation

June 02, 2008|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

HAGERSTOWN - A plastic bottle maker plans a multimillion-dollar expansion that will increase the size of its Hagerstown operation by about 50 percent, but employment is expected to stay about the same, a company official said Wednesday.

The expansion will give Parker Plastics Inc. "more room to grow," Plant Manager Jim Brown said. It "will give us additional space for our present business, as well as additional business we foresee in the future."

The company now leases 40,000 square feet of a 100,000-square-foot building at 105 Enterprise Lane, off Western Maryland Parkway along the city's western fringe. For its offices, Parker also has a 3,000-square-foot "kick-out" area it built, giving it 43,000 square feet of space in all.

Todd Baer, who with Dick McCleary owns the building, said Wednesday they will seek site plan approval next week to expand the building to 150,000 square feet. The request is to go before the Washington County Planning Commission tonight.

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Baer said the expansion, which will cost "between $2 million and $3 million," could begin within a week.

With the expansion, which Brown hopes will be ready in August, the bottle manufacturer will increase its local operation to 63,000 square feet. Two other companies are leasing a total of 60,000 square feet of the present building.

Parker Products has about 45 employees here.

It makes about three million bottles a month, mostly for small businesses in such industries as cooking oil, salad dressing and nonalcoholic mixers. Their most well-known bottle is shaped like a bear and is made to hold honey.

The bottles are made using five machines in a reheating and blowing process that forces air at 600 pounds per square inch into a plastic pre-form "that kind of looks like a test tube with threads," Brown said. The "test tube" shape expands into a bottle shape and the threads are where caps will be screwed into place.

He said the machines are capable of producing 6 million to 7 million bottles a month, but the space Parker leases here now isn't large enough to keep all of them as inventory. He said the company has to be able to store them until its small-business customers need them.

In three to five years, Parker said he is hoping to take on another 20,000 square feet here, increasing its local plant to a bit more than the 80,000 square foot size of its other plants in Wisconsin and Oklahoma.

"We're actually doing really well" in the present economy, Brown said. He said the company hasn't experienced the tightening that is occurring in other market sectors.

But, he said, "it could come because it's (Parker's business) the food industry. And, of course, plastic is made from the petroleum. So we could be affected."

The company's raw material cost has increased "at least probably 20, 25 percent ... probably within the last couple of years," he said. "... So, it is passed along to the consumer, which will affect all of us."

Building co-owner Baer said the structure's expansion will, in addition to Parker's immediate needs, give the owners 30,000 square feet more to market.

He said Blue Seal Feeds leases 40,000 square feet for storage. Its bags of feed are shrink-wrapped on pallets in a racking system, he said.

The other tenant is Leggett and Platt, which leases 20,000 square feet. He said it retrofits Verizon vehicles, adding such equipment as racks and screening.

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