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Boxes worth looking at: Union Camp displays commitment to Conway with $5.9 million investment.

BRUCE WILSON SAYS HIS BIGGEST claim to fame was a visit to his daughter's first-grade class for show and tell.

"She said, 'My daddy makes Barbie boxes,'" Wilson says with a laugh.

Wilson is the general manager of Union Camp Corp.'s corrugated box facility in Conway.

Union Camp may not be as widely known in Arkansas as some of its competitors such as Georgia-Pacific Corp., International Paper Co. and Potlatch Corp.

But, like Wilson, its claim to fame is making those colorful boxes the consumer sees in stores every day.

These are boxes for Mattel Toys Inc. products like Barbie dolls, Skil Corp. tools, Sunbeam Oster kitchen appliances and Castrol Oil, to name a few.

"We're kind of new to Arkansas," Wilson says. Union Camp, a paper and lumber company in the Fortune 150, had sales of $3 billion last year. "We're a small but growing presence in the state."

The company is based in Wayne, N.J., but its strength is centered in the Southeast, particularly in Georgia.

Union Camp purchased the family-owned Tate Containers box plant in Conway in 1990. Union Camp also has a multiwall bag-making plant in Monticello, Chase Packaging Corp.

The company's commitment to Conway was recently spelled out with plans to invest $5.9 million in the facility's structure.

Half of that money will go to purchase a six-color printing press. The remainder of the investment will finance a 6,500-SF expansion of the existing facility and the purchase of a sheeter, which takes the large rolls of paper and cuts them into sheets. The sheets are eventually die-cut into boxes after printing.

Wilson says the Conway facility, in the city's industrial park, is a combination of plants: a normal-type box plant but also a specialized plant in that it makes litho-laminated corrugated boxes.

Corrugated boxes are what the general public may refer to -- somewhat inappropriately, it seems -- as cardboard boxes. "When you buy a shirt, what it comes in, that's a cardboard box," Wilson says.

Not Just a Corrugated Box

Corrugated boxes are the heavy ply containers one would use for shipping, moving, storage, etc. Normally, they are brown with one or two colors.

At Conway, though, many of the corrugated boxes produced have high-quality printing or graphics with the same structure as a regular corrugated box. They help make the home appliances and heavy consumer products more marketable in stores with their attractive look.

"We're at the high end of that market from an overall print quality," Wilson says. The Conway facility, part of 30 container-division locations around the country, is Union Camp's only litho-laminating plant.

The new press should be installed by late summer.

"It is as big a press as you can buy, 55 inches wide," Wilson says. "It's the latest in computer-assisted printers."

Planeta of Dresden, Germany, is the maker of the press.

The press will handle 9,000 sheets an hour, whereas the three presses now in operation at the plant each handle half that total. One of the present presses will be phased out.

The new setup will allow the facility to produce in excess of 20 million sheets a year, Wilson says. Each sheet may have two or three boxes after die-cutting.

The building expansion, targeted for completion by year's end, will allow for a new film and printing plate area, expanded and remodeled offices, roomier areas for employees and a design shop "where we do the structural design of the box, what style it will be," Wilson says.

The present facility, housing more than 230 employees, is 225,000 SF. The construction will force a move into trailers for five months.

"This is a major commitment to Conway and Arkansas," says Wilson, who came to Conway two years ago this month from a Union Camp regional office in Atlanta. "We've been here three years. We like what we're seeing here."
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Title Annotation:Union Camp Corp.
Author:Harris, Jim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 19, 1993
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