Mohawk Fine Papers continues adding workers to envelope-folding plant in South Hadley



Last modified: Monday, February 08, 2016

SOUTH HADLEY — Two or three tractor-trailer trucks loaded with rolls and large sheets of paper pull up to the loading dock at one end of the Mohawk Fine Papers envelope-folding plant at 28 Gaylord St. each week. At a dock at the other end of the building, about 7.5 million envelopes a week are leaving the plant in the Falls section of town.

Robert Scammell, the senior vice president for strategy and business operations for the company based in Cohoes, New York, said he expects that number to grow in the next months and years.

Mohawk, which expanded its operations to South Hadley last year, has another envelope-folding plant in Ohio with more than double the capacity of this one.

The demand for envelopes looks bright, according to Scammell.

“The markets are returning,” he said. Analysts are seeing some movement away from email and other electronic communications and back to actual physical mail that ends up in a targeted customer’s hands.

“To some degree this whole advertising space has come full circle,” said Scammell. “The studies out there show a higher response rate, a higher return rate, and higher impact with a promotional piece of mail that people read that way as opposed to on a smartphone or computer screen.”

This is a reversal of an almost decade-long trend, according to Scammell.

Especially good for Mohawk is that these mailings often use specialized envelopes designed to attract attention. That includes custom-printed information such as return addresses as well as varying shapes and sizes and different positioning of windows.

Mohawk is hiring six new employees to take the local work force from 27 to 33. Scammell declined to disclose the pay scale. Other than the plant manager, Pat Lavigne, who relocated to the area, all the hires have been local. All but one previously worked in the paper industry and most have more than 20 years experience.

Two are maintenance technicians. Others are divided into operational groups that include material handlers, lead adjusters and equipment operators.

Three rooms

The chain of production goes through three large rooms.

The die-cutting room is where big machines with ominous-looking blades make millions of cuts a day on the large sheets and rolls of paper.

In the next room are the folding machines. The plant has already gone from four machines to six since it started operating last spring, and there is room for four more.

With the decline of the paper industry, there is a market for unused envelope-folding machines in need of refurbishing. “There is a plethora of used equipment available,” said Scammell. The technology “has been around for several decades.” He would not say what it costs to put a machine into production.

The third room is for packaging and shipping the final product. About half the production is for customized orders, which go by FedEx directly to customers from Maine to northern Virginia. Each of those orders is individually estimated and quoted, said Scammell.

The other half is stock production. That goes to Albany where Mohawk has one of its four domestic warehouses. Products get combined there and shipped daily to distributors who are franchised to carry the Mohawk brand. The company also has two warehouses on the West Coast and one in Ohio.

Mohawk started last spring in South Hadley with one shift producing 600,000 envelopes a day and bumped it up to two shifts putting out 1.5 million envelopes a day in August. The Ohio plant produces three million a day.

The machines here are in operation from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a shift change at 3 p.m. The new hires are coming in “to get both shifts full,” said Scammell. As the company expands its market for high-end and custom envelopes it plans to add a third shift.

Recent recognition

MassEcon, which describes itself as “the state’s private sector partner in promoting Massachusetts as the premier choice for business growth,” presented Mohawk with a bronze in the western Massachusetts category of its 12th annual Economic Impact Awards at a ceremony during November in Boston.

The gold and silver awards were given to Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing in Lee, which serves clinics and the pharmaceutical industry, and Kennametal Inc. in Greenfield, a global company in tooling for the mining and highway construction industries.

MassEcon praised Mohawk for making a $2.5 million investment in South Hadley. That included “spending significant dollars” on doing “a top-notch job of refitting the 112,342 square-foot facility,” said Scammell. The building, owned by Lakestar Properties in Lakewood, New Jersey, needed to upgrade its lighting, atmospheric controls and floors.

The town helped lure Mohawk with a tax incentive under which it will not have to pay property taxes during its first year of operation. It will pay 25 percent of the full assessed value in the second year, 50 percent in the third year and 75 percent in the fourth year. All the assessed taxes will be based on the improved value of the property.

Scammell said Mohawk is well-positioned to compete in the current market.

“We are extremely unique as an envelope manufacturer because most high-end fine paper companies and paper mills don’t produce envelopes as an accessory to their products,” he said. “As we are growing our core business of printing and writing-grade paper, our sales people are out there armed with the opportunity for a companion envelope for an advertising piece. (That is) an area we stand out and see growth, particularly for our premium products.”

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com.


 


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