NEWPORT—When Phoenix Closures opened up a facility in Newport over a decade ago, setting its plastic injection molding company operations up to manufacture lids, the sky was the limit for the Naperville, Illinois based company.
Now 12 years later, the company celebrated yet another big accomplishment at its Newport facility on Thursday afternoon. Local dignitaries and officials helped open up the companies new 71,000 square foot warehouse expansion project with a grand re-opening ceremony.
The Newport facility of Phoenix Closures, which is one of four production facilities that the company has, processes the companies highest volume of plastics. The plant, which is located on Industrial Road, boasts a total of 277,607 square feet following the new warehouse project.
“Phoenix Closures is a good day pretty much every day,” Phoenix Closures co-President Giles Miller said on Thursday. “What we don’t often get is an opportunity to celebrate it with a wider community.
“For us, opening up a warehouse here to better serve our customers was a nice way not only to showcase the products, which are real important, but to celebrate all the folks that make this stuff happen.”
The company manufactures lids for several companies including JFG Peanut Butter, Smuckers, Maxwell Coffee, Marzetti and many others.
Phoenix opened its Newport operations in 2005 and has recently underwent two major expansions. The family owned company has invested $20 million into the Newport plant in the last two years, including five million in the warehouse expansion project, along with $15 million in expanding the facility’s production line, which services the needs of a number of Fortune 500 companies.
Miller said those investments have resulted in a 33 percent increase in the workforce at the plant.
“We are up to 95 people here in Newport,” Miller told those in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony. “That is an increase in 24 (employees) as a result of the expansion work being done. Ninety percent of those folks come from Cocke County, so it’s nice to be an anchor employer here.”
According to a release from the company, Newport Plant Manager Tim Smith said the expansion project will bring on 18 new employees and 14 new pieces of equipment.
Ed Buck, Vice President of Manufacturing for Phoenix Closures, said that the employees of the Newport plant are what made Thursday’s celebration all possible. Both he and Miller credited employees Norman Smith and recently retired chief engineer Mike Roberson for their efforts.
“For us, we feel very fortunate that we have quality employees to run this plant,” Buck said. “None of this is possible without those employees out there on the floor making that product.”
Buck said the warehouse project started about six months before they received approval to build the expansion, which came about as a need based on the production floor expansions. The project took a year to complete, with construction being done by McSpadden Inc., based out of Dandridge.
Phoenix Closures located to the area after a lengthy search on a facility located in the southeast.
“We decided that we would get involved in peanut butter and mayonaise as an industry,” Miller said. “A lot of that is southeastern United States kind of territory. With Newport being so close to Interstate 40, Interstate 81 and Interstate 75, with that kind of infrastructure right there, this city made a lot of sense of our location.
“The pre-existing building that was here before us, a bible warehouse and a furniture manufacturer, was a very good fit for us. We could rehab that facility and make it work and we knew with the local community, we’d be able to find enough good people to staff up the operation,” Miller said. “That investment has paid off time and time again.”
Both Miller and Buck expressed their gratitude to local officials for their work to make both their initial location in Cocke County, as well as their continued investments, a huge success.
“Cocke County has been incredibly supportive,” Miller said. “When we looked at the original building, it was on its own septic system. We are not close to where the main lines were at the time, but Cocke County said they would get us on city water.
“Just like that, before we set up operations, they brought city water out to this end of Industrial Road. Which was not only a good deal for us, but everyone else along the way that got brought in,” Miller said. “Cocke County is not only supportive of Phoenix Closures, but I think they do a very good job of taking care of other employers in the area.”