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New owners say they won’t change the family atmosphere of Portage Plastics.

That means more Christmas turkeys.

“Kevin cooks turkeys outside in the freezing cold for both shifts, every year,” Human Resources Manager Lisa Persack said of company partner Kevin Putnam. “We know everybody’s names, we know their kids’ names and we know what they’re doing outside of work.

“It’s like my second family.”

Putnam founded the thermoforming manufacturer as a spin-off of Spartech in 1997, alongside Anthony Domerchie and the recently retired partners Gary Larkin and David Bernard.

Mauro Fisher and Daniel Joyce joined Portage Plastics as partners Jan. 1.

Joyce, the company’s president, said the about 60 employees of Portage Plastics already received increased pay and benefits and they should expect to see sales and production grow in the months and years ahead.

“We’re committed to making this an even better place for people to work,” he said of ownership changes. “That’s our strongest message: We have very strong growth plans to keep us productive and we want to add new thermoforming lines in Portage over next couple years. We think our production can grow by 25 to 40 percent even without expansion.”

Portage Plastics is currently a $25 million operation employing about 120 total people between facilities in Portage and Brownsville, Texas.

Company-wide, it produces more than 200 million parts annually.

Its main focus, Joyce said, is medical and retail packaging, including the wiper blade packaging that got the company started back when it opened on Silver Lake Drive more than two decades ago. Portage Plastics moved to its building on Boeck Road in 2002 and opened the second location in Texas in 2006.

Another change for the company might someday include adding a third facility — “another leg to the stool, somewhere west of the Rockies,” Joyce said.

Much sooner than that, Joyce expects company leaders to involve themselves more in the Portage community in the effort to retain good employees — “sending that message that this is a great place to work.”

In recent months, Portage Plastics already has seen an “uptick” of employees who’ve demonstrated they want to stay at the company for a long time, Joyce said.

“We’re trying to change the perception of plastics, in general,” Putnam said. “We’re more environmentally conscious in the materials we choose and we’re doing a lot in development to bring our materials to life.”

“The reality is that sometimes people might run up the street,” Joyce said of the company’s proximity to other manufacturers in Portage. “That’s why it’s key for us to find good people who care about the work and who want to do a good job every day.

“You need to compensate people for that, and we want to be a good corporate citizen.”

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.


Portage Daily Register Reporter