LEWISTOWN - An overseas investment in a high-technology machine has enabled a local paper company to enhance production and better compete with a variety of markets.
Nittany Paper Mills Inc. in Lewistown recently imported a roll towel and tissue machine from China. This past December, two engineers from China came to Lewistown to help with the installation. They didn't speak any English, Nittany Paper Mills Vice President of Operations Pat Stewart said, which made things interesting.
Luckily, a few local residents were able to help with the translation. One, a student studying at Cornell University in New York, who was in the area during the time, knew Mandarin, Stewart said.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Hector Garcia removes rolls of toilet paper from the new paper roll and tissue cutting machine at Nittany Paper Mills Inc. in Lewistown Tuesday. The machine is from China and was installed with the help of two engineers from China.
After the machine arrived, it took about 20 to 30 days to get it set up. It began running in early January, Stewart said.
"We ran all our different kind(s) of products through it (to test it out)," he said.
The machine, which has expanded the business by 70,000 square feet, takes what are called large parent rolls, or mill rolls, from a pulp mill, and breaks them down into smaller rolls.
"We're a paper converter," Stewart said.
Each parent roll is 104 inches wide, Stewart said. From each parent roll, 13 smaller rolls are manufactured.
Per workday shift, 650 cases of six-pack roll towels, or nearly 1,000 cases of 12-pack of toilet tissue are produced, Stewart said, adding that there are two shifts a day.
The product the company makes, he said, is "inelastic" in that even though the country is struggling economically, "people still have to buy towels."
The machine enables the business to make the product about three times as fast as it was made before, Stewart said. Additionally, the new technology has added capacity and allows for better control of product quality, he said.
The idea to acquire the machine came about, Stewart said, when the company was nearing capacity. One of the owners of Nittany Paper Mills, Don Chapman, wanted to better utilize the company's space and contacts to make some improvements. It was determined that another machine was needed, Stewart said.
Kish Bank and SEDA-Council of Governments helped with financing, Stewart said, and the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation leased the space for the expansion, while the Lewistown CareerLink assisted with finding additional employees for the company. Six people were hired to manage the machine, he said.
"It's been a nice group of organizations to work with here," Stewart said,
Chapman said when he was a child, China came to the U.S. to obtain technology to make their products cheaper, with which they flooded this country's market.
"In this case," he said about the new machine, "we purchased the technology from China to enable us to compete effectively with them."
He said the company has been so successful because of its ability to compete with New York City and New Jersey markets.
"And now we've focused our attention on Pennsylvania and other mid-Atlantic states," he said.
Nittany Paper Mills' products are 100 percent recycled, and can be seen at such places at Sheetz, Eat N' Park, Penn State University's Bryce Jordan Center, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and on many Penn State campuses. Products can be purchased locally at the Lewistown Paper Co., Chapman said.
Chapman said he expects additional machines and employees to be added to the company in the future.
Rob Postal, MCIDC president, said "MCIDC likes to partner with growing companies."
Nittany Paper Mills, he said, started out in the MCIDC plaza with only 5,000 square feet.
"We've worked with them over the years and are still working with them (through) this expansion," Postal said.
What MCIDC does best, he said, is works with and partners with small companies. Nittany Paper Mills is doing what it needs to do to stay successful, and MCIDC also is doing what it needs to do to support them.
Postal said MCIDC is committed to continuing to work with Nittany Paper Mills and see them grow.
"I think they have a bright future," he said, as well as a good product.
He said MCIDC is "looking for pretty good things" from Nittany Paper Mills.
"We're happy for them," he said.
Postal added that there are a variety of other local companies that continue to invest in the MCIDC plaza, such as Kardex U.S.A. Inc., which manufactures storage retrieval systems, and Ch Enterprises of Central PA LLC, a general industrial machinery manufacturer.
"Things continue to chug along," he said.
Nittany Paper Mills started in 2005 with three employees. Today, approximately 20 people are employed, and the business utilizes a total of more than 80,000 square feet, Chapman said. For more information visit www.nittanypapermills.com.