Solo Cup to add jobs to Conyers plant

CONYERS -- Solo Cup announced Tuesday it will close three facilities and shift the work to its two Georgia facilities in Conyers and Thomaston.

The company said in a prepared statement that it is closing manufacturing plants in Owings Mills, Md., North Andover, Mass., and Springfield, Mo., "due to improved production efficiency across its 10 other North American manufacturing plants."

That will mean the Conyers Solo Cup plant will pick up production volume in plastics thermoforming -- cups, bowls and containers -- from the Owings Mills and North Andover plants. The Thomaston plant will pick up production in thermoforming from North Andover, according to Solo Cup spokeswoman Leslie Beyer.

Both Conyers and Thomaston will be adding jobs over the next 12 to 24 months because of the restructuring. Beyer said that the company expected a potential increase in jobs to be from 10 to 15 percent.

The Conyers Solo Cup plant has about 460 employees. The company's distribution facility in Social Circle has about 64.

It was welcomed news here. Glenn Sears, executive director of the Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council, said much of the credit goes to the local plant's management team of Plant Manager Craig Boehringer and Human Resources Director Lisa Phillips.

"Based on my corporate experience, this is one of the best performing Solo Cup plants in the country, so this is not a surprise," Sears said. "Solo Cup is a vital and valued member of this community."

Sears also cited the company's participation in the Georgia Work Ready Program as another positive for plant efficiency. Georgia Work Ready is an initiative by Gov. Sonny Perdue's office and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to improve the job training and marketability of Georgia's workforce and drive future economic growth for the state.

Solo Cup was named Work Ready Business of the Year in 2008, the first year the local plant participated in the program.

The moves were part of an overall strategy by Solo Cup to upgrade its manufacturing. The Conyers plant has undergone some retooling in recent years to manufacture different products. Also, Solo Cup combined its Jonesboro and Conyers distribution centers and moved into a new facility in Social Circle in 2006.

"We have invested approximately $150 million over the past two years to upgrade our manufacturing assets and increase the efficiency of our operations. As a result, we are now able to be more productive within a smaller manufacturing footprint," said George Chappelle, chief operating officer, Solo Cup Company, in the statement.

The plant closings eventually will result in the elimination of approximately 540 full-time manufacturing positions in Owings Mills, 360 in North Andover and 340 in Springfield, according to the company.

"These decisions are never easy because we know they affect the lives of our employees and their families. It was important to us to give them as much advance notice as possible, and we will work to make it a smooth transition for them," said Robert M. Korzenski, president and chief executive officer, Solo Cup Company, in the statement. "We are grateful for their years of dedicated service to Solo."

All affected employees will have the opportunity to pursue employment at other Solo facilities and will be given priority over other candidates.

Solo Cup is a $1.5 billion publicly reporting company headquartered in Lake F orest, Ill., which manufactures disposable plastic, paper and foam tableware and packaging for the consumer/retail, food service, packaging and international markets.