Just One Word — Plastics
Brocton Co. Celebrating 60 Years In Manufacturing
BROCTON — Toyota; GM; Browning and Crossman Knives; Tesla; Great Batch Medical — what do all of these well-known labels have in common?
All of them have products manufactured by a 60-year-old thermal injection molding and packaging business, which has remained a constant in Chautauqua County, Jamestown Plastics Inc.
The Highland Avenue plant, located in the village of Brocton, is the former site of Niagara Therapy, which manufactured therapeutic furniture and remains operational in the high tech, yet uniquely-skilled field of thermal injection molding. Company President Jay Baker explained how the company planted its roots and branched out into the Brocton plant, as well as a successful Brownsville, Texas, plant during its 60th Anniversary Celebration and Community Open House held Nov. 15.
The company originated in Jamestown in 1958 on Hopkins Avenue, a site that was eventually landlocked and couldn’t be added onto for expansion. In 1972, Baker’s father, Jim, was made general manager of the company. By 1976, Jamestown Plastics was officially purchased by the elder Baker and he remained a vital part of the company until 1996, when he retired. Jim and his wife, Jackie, were on hand last Tuesday to watch their son receive an official proclamation presented on behalf of Chautauqua County Executive George Borello.
Two of the greatest changes the company president has witnessed throughout his evolution of Jamestown Plastics are technological advancements and the market place landscape.
“Since the 1970s, technology has been revolutionary in the changes to industry. Machines started out manually to build tools. There were no computer and design components to manufacturing. It was more or less a craftsman/pattern maker world. Today, we utilize a solid model with mathematical data, with mathematically-controlled production of a tool. The types, speed and consistency we enjoy today were unachievable then. The controls and systems used in our field today are dramatically different, and offer much better componentry in equipment.”
Baker went on to add that the industry market place is now in stark contrast of what it once was. Describing the loss of companies such as Fisher Price to be a bookmark on the loss of manufacturing in North America, he described Jamestown Plastic’s successful manufacturing of TriCo windshield wipers as the catalyst for the company’s Brownsville, Texas, state-of-the-art plant.
Success has been matched with typical ebbs and flows of business, as Baker went on to discuss.
“The biggest recession between the years 2008 to 2009, were actually a total depression in manufacturing. A stable environment allowed us to ride it out. It was rough, and painful, but we survived. We were forced to reduce payroll at that point, but we were able to welcome our employees back, and at the time, a lot of companies did not. Now we’re seeing employment levels the highest they’ve been in history,” stated Baker.
Baker gave nod to President Donald Trump for being, “Somebody who speaks our language. Within the small business community, we feel we have someone who understands business. And our country was built on manufacturing.”
Also serving as president of the Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education, Baker is keeping his eye on another business component, that of the raising of skilled, competitive members of the future workforce. The school district’s Manufacturer’s Club, steered by he and advisor Randy Stewart, boasts a membership of 70 student participants who experience the ins and outs of manufacturing.
“Those students are entirely the hope for the future of manufacturing. The reason we’re here tonight is the type of people that work in this building. They’re hard to replace,” Baker said. “Our line of business demands well-rounded people, and we’re sort of in the mindset of ‘We teach our own.'”
One of those well-rounded employees is Manufacturing/Design Engineer Alec Daugherty, who echoed Baker’s and many of his coworkers’ descriptions of Jamestown Plastics as a, “family-oriented work environment.”
A 2013 graduate of Brocton Central School, Daugherty explained he’s always had an interest in machine manufacturing, which led him to undertake specialized degree programs offered through Jamestown Community College. His careful dance with his customer base has allowed him to specifically tailor a product to a customer’s needs, more often than not, drafting a product from scratch to satisfy what the customer is looking for.
Boasting the company’s patented and newly-launched product, the Clamtainer, Daugherty explained that the concept was born from a specific request from Canadian marijuana packaging customer who demanded child-resistant packaging that would be complex for small hands to get into.
“Having more of our customers return to us with new projects that they’re wanting is a common situation here. This is a great place to work, and our company is very family-oriented,” stated Daugherty.
A tremendous buffet and dessert spread catered by Super Duper Catering welcomed local dignitaries, employees’ family members and community neighbors into the celebration. From there, the fruit of the company was on display via a series of guided tours by Jamestown Plastics employees.
Former plant manager, and current Sales and Marketing Director Ray Navarro, who is a retired United States Army veteran, took groups of participants through the halls of Jamestown Plastics and explained in detail how the company takes world-class manufacturing concepts and machinery and translates them into world-class products to its huge spectrum of customers. The evening’s tourists were astonished to discover that things such as pharmaceutical packing; parts of emergency room crash carts; durable automotive parts and accessories; gift display packaging; and much, much more are turned out of Jamestown Plastic’s Brocton plant each day. Navarro also noted that the company is not only a family-oriented business, but is also welcoming to employees who are U.S. veterans.
Jim Baker, who watched as his son Jay, and grandson, Jessup, led tours on the work floor imparted his own business advice, which has sustained the company and that was passed down from his own father-in-law, a successful car dealer.
“If you can under promise, and out-perform, you’re on your way to satisfying your customers. We’ve been fortunate to have some really great and loyal customers over the years. One of the only challenges that comes to mind for me has been not to succumb to the temptation of overspending within the business. It happens so often, but you need to exercise discipline to stay competitive. Always use your gut feeling, and be wary of your competitors. Use common sense, and most of all, enjoy what you do,” said Jim Baker
To learn more about the goods and services offered at Jamestown Plastics, visit their website at jamestownplastics.com.