NORWICH – Joanne Williams, Senior Operator for Nordson EFD Norwich, who has been with the company for over 20 years, said the factory is busier these days.
“It’s the good kind of busy,” said Williams. “Everyone keeps up with the machines and does what they have to do.”
In 2017, Nordson acquired EFD Plas-Pak Industries, a manufacturer of plastic packaging and other products for various industries. In May, Nordson completed a second expansion of the Norwich facility, adding 53,000 square feet to the size of the facility since acquiring more manufacturing space. The most recently completed extension was also built in such a way that another extension can be built quickly, although the company would like to use the existing space first.
“It’s a place where we can grow,” said Charles Frey, Jr., operations manager at Nordson EFD’s Norwich facility.
Frey said he needed to fill about 110 jobs to keep up with the expansion. Jobs range from entry level jobs to grow with the company to positions for people experienced in quality control, shipping, and other skills.
Frey said the company has continuously invested in the Norwich facility, increasing the number of injection molding machines from 28 in a single mold hall to 50 in four mold halls, with the manufacturing process becoming more automated.
“It was really exciting,” said Frey. “Nordson has continued to invest in this location from day one.”
Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said the business tie was “all we work towards” in terms of the city’s economy and said manufacturing was “critically important” to the city.
“It was our responsibility to show them that this was the place to grow,” said Nystrom.
Jamie Clark, vice president and general manager of Nordson EFD, said the company purchased Plas-Pak to strengthen its two-component fluid dispensing packaging product line. This type of packaging can be used with a roof adhesive, for example, as the two substances are mixed together when applied.
As part of the Norwich expansion, Clark said Nordson plans to consolidate its two-part liquid packaging operation as the company had an office in New Jersey prior to expansion. In addition, the company’s interest in further investments in Norwich can be attributed to growth in its target markets, which include the home improvement and pet supplies market, and the quality of the job vacancy in the area.
“We believe this area supports our growth plans from a labor market perspective,” said Clark. “In the past few years following the Plas-Pak acquisition, the quality of talent and resources in the region have supported not only our business but also our growth.”
From Plas-Pak to Nordson
Also, Clark said that Plas-Pak worked similarly to Nordson. Frey felt that there were similarities in how the two companies did business, which emphasized the corporate culture.
“We have known them for a long time, they have known us for a long time and they felt like a (larger) reflection of ourselves,” said Frey.
Frey has been in manufacturing all his life since his father was one of the founders of Plas-Pak in 1985. When the company moved into the current building, the former John Meyer of Norwich factory, in the 1990s, Frey recalls that the building was full of vegetation and a failing roof. At the time of the takeover, Plas-Pak grew to 150 employees and 28 injection molding machines.
Things were fine in the days of Plas-Pak, with competitive niches, but Frey said that selling to a larger company is natural in its growth. While Nordson was a competitor, Frey said the two companies were “respectful” of their competition.
“There were a couple of different companies, even bigger than Nordson, that we said were going to run over us,” Frey said.
Frey also said there are strategic reasons for Nordson to stay in Norwich as the facility is close to Boston and New York and has port access.
Frey said the climate today is different than in previous years. The Norwich facility remained operational during the pandemic but is now facing product substitutions to offset the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the supply chain and shipping itself.
A good place for making
Nystrom credits various business development organizations in the region, including the Eastern Workforce Investment Board (EWIB) and their Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, which trains people for manufacturing jobs, as key factors in keeping the company as a source of jobs, tax revenue and utility sales for the city, in the city.
“The young, dedicated workforce that comes out of high school and makes decisions is really important in giving them direction,” said Nystrom, who also sits on EWIB’s Council of Chief Elected Officials.
Clark said there were opportunities in manufacturing in Norwich. While there are many variables behind where a company wants to do business, he recommends that companies consider coming to the area.
“If a company comes to the region, it will be as successful,” said Clark.
Nystrom said properties in Norwich, including the property that will be available upon completion in Business Park North, are at a more competitive price than other states in the region.
According to Land and Farm.com, the average retail price on the website for commercial space in Connecticut is $ 896,297, while the price for Massachusetts is $ 1.19 million and Rhode Island is $ 1.1 million.
On further development, Kevin Brown, president of Norwich Community Development Corporation, said the city is following the lead of the state, including the recently announced Innovation Corridor and Community Challenge program, with work continuing on Business Park North.
“Norwich will be on board to facilitate manufacturing, both in terms of the businesses we can bring and the jobs that come with it,” said Brown.
As for Williams, she is confident that manufacturing in the region will continue to improve and that high-paying jobs with Nordson services would convince people to join the company.
“If I didn’t have to retire, I’d be here for a long time,” said Williams.