Pa­per bag fac­tory ramp­ing up pro­duc­tion

Newark Post - - Local News - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

An Ir­ish pack­ag­ing man­u­fac­turer is slowly ramp­ing up pro­duc­tion at its Ne­wark-area fac­tory af­ter open­ing last Au­gust.

AB Group Pack­ag­ing, which makes pa­per bags, to-go pack­ag­ing for restau­rants, in­dus­trial bags and other pack­ag­ing ma­te­ri­als, has four pro­duc­tion lines run­ning in an in­dus­trial park at 1800 Ogle­town Road, next to Lowe’s Home Im­prove­ment. That ca­pac­ity will dou­ble by this sum­mer, CEO Der­mot Brady said last week dur­ing a cer­e­mony cel­e­brat­ing the plant’s open­ing.

The fac­tory will have the ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­duce a quar­ter­mil­lion bags a day, but Brady de­clined to say what its cur­rent out­put is.

“It’s not re­ally huge at the mo­ment. This is a long-term game,” Brady said. “Our ramp-up and growth is steady and con­sis­tent.”

The Ne­wark plant is the first North Amer­i­can fac­tory for AB Group, which also has lo­ca­tions in Ire­land, Spain and the United King­dom. The com­pany has a global work­force of ap­prox­i­mately 350.

AB Group’s in­ter­est in the U.S. mar­ket peaked last year when one of its largest cus­tomers, Pri­mark, be­gan ex­pand­ing to Amer­ica. The Ir­ish fash­ion gi­ant opened a store in King of Prus­sia, Pa., in late 2015 and has plans for eight more in the U.S. by the end of this year.

Brady said he looked at other states but quickly set­tled on Delaware.

“We were to­tally bowled over by the can-do at­ti­tude, fast de­ci­sion mak­ing and terrific col­leges and tech­ni­cal cen­ters,” he said.

To sweeten the deal, the Delaware Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Of­fice of­fered nearly $375,000 in in­cen­tives. If the com­pany hires 87 full-time em­ploy­ees by the end of 2017, it will re­ceive a $253,365 Strate­gic Fund Per­for­mance Grant. It is also el­i­gi­ble for a $120,000 Cap­i­tal Ex­pen­di­ture grant if it spends at least $4 mil­lion on cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­tures.

“When banks see an in­flux of funds from the state, that starts to give every­body con­fi­dence,” Brady said. “We may have come here be­fore, but we might have just had one ma­chine here to­day. Where as, this sum­mer, we’ll have eight ma­chines.”

The 120,000-square-foot Ne­wark fac­tory only has 25 em­ploy­ees right now, but Brady ex­pects to meet the goal of 87 work­ers prior to the state’s dead­line.

“We would love to have like 200 here to­mor­row, but it takes time to train peo­ple,” he said, not­ing that run­ning the bag-mak­ing ma­chin­ery re­quires spe­cific me­chan­i­cal skills.

The com­pany has part­nered with Delaware Tech­ni­cal and Com­mu­nity Col­lege to help train fu­ture work­ers, Brady added.

Both Brady and Gov. Jack Markell said the above-and-be­yond ac­tions of DEDO of­fi­cial Patty Can­non helped so­lid­ify AB’s de­ci­sion to choose Delaware. Brady had toured the state with DEDO rep­re­sen­ta­tives and re­al­ized later that night he had left his lap­top in a rented van. Can­non drove three hours in the mid­dle of the night to de­liver the lap­top to Brady in an­other state.

“It’s so in­dica­tive of the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­fort that we try to pro­vide,” Markell said. “That kind of at­ti­tude is crit­i­cal in a com­pet­i­tive world, and it’s what we as­pire to ev­ery day.”

Anne An­der­son, the Ir­ish am­bas­sador to the United States, trav­eled to Ne­wark to at­tend AB Group’s grand open­ing on April 15.

“They’re known in Ire­land as a very smart and in­no­va­tive com­pany,” An­der­son said. “I think there will be a lot of po­ten­tial for growth here.”

She noted that many Amer­i­can com­pa­nies choose Ire- land when look­ing to ex­pand to Europe and said she is pleased that more Ir­ish com­pa­nies are adding lo­ca­tions in the United States.

“The best re­la­tion­ships are two-way ones,” An­der­son said. “We’re big ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Amer­i­can in­vest­ment in Ire­land, and it’s very good to see the growth in the other di­rec­tion as well.”

Brady said the fac­tory op­er­ates as a “zero-waste” fa­cil­ity, mean­ing that all raw ma­te­ri­als that come in are ei­ther used in prod­ucts or re­cy­cled.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Der­mot Brady (right), CEO of AB Group Pack­ag­ing, gives a tour of his Ne­wark fac­tory to Gov. Jack Markell and Ir­ish am­bas­sador Anne An­der­son.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Gov. Jack Markell speaks at a cer­e­mony cel­e­brat­ing AB Group Pack­ag­ing’s Ne­wark fac­tory.

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