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GW Plastics expanding in Royalton



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, May 23, 2019

ROYALTON — Signaling what it says is a commitment to its home-state roots in Vermont, GW Plastics broke ground this week on a 30,000-square foot building addition at its Royalton manufacturing facility, the fifth such expansion at the Waterman Road site since the company opened a plant there in the late 1980s.

The $10 million expansion, which will include 13,000-square feet of “cleanroom” manufacturing space and 17,000-square feet in warehouse space, is expected to add about 30 jobs over time and will be devoted to the manufacture of medical devices, according to Brenan Riehl, president of GW Plastics.

“We definitely had the opportunity to expand elsewhere,” Riehl said on Friday, acknowledging that it might cost less to expand in a state like New Hampshire “but we’re committed to Vermont. We want to support our people, support our community and state and partnership with Vermont Tech, which is an incredibly valuable resource for us,” he said.

GW Plastics is a contract manufacturer of plastic injection mold products and devices for the health care, automotive and filtration industries. The privately-owned company, based in Bethel and with the sister plant in Royalton, has expanded aggressively in recent years and has added manufacturing facilities in Arizona, Texas, Mexico, Ireland and China.

Riehl said the plant expansion is made necessary by the “steady growth” of GW Plastics medical device business, which accounts for about 75% of the company’s annual sales.

The medical devices include products such as syringes, balloon catheters, surgical pens and biopsy markers made to the specifications of other companies that market and sell them into the health care marketplace.

GW Plastics, which has about 1,100 employees across eight locations worldwide, employs a total of 410 people in Vermont, including 240 in Bethel and 170 in Royalton, making it one of the largest manufacturers in the state.

After the latest expansion, GW Plastics expects eventually to have 200 people working at the Royalton plant.

The Royalton expansion plan follows GW Plastics announcing only two months ago that it will invest $6.8 million to build out a 28,000-square-foot facility in Sligo, Ireland, where it acquired an Irish precision mold maker a couple of years ago. Devices made at the Ireland plant are targeted for shipment to the European market, as the China plant mostly serves Chinese customers.

Royalton is a logical place for the latest expansion because the company’s owns a 24-acre site which is already permitted, Riehl said, and is only 11 miles from Randolph-based Vermont Technical College, with whom GW Plastics has a close relationship through cooperative education and training programs and whose engineering graduates have been a critical source of talent for the company over the years.

The project in Royalton is being handled by Engleberth Construction, of Colchester, Vt., which has worked with GW Plastics on building projects since 1996 and most recently built the 15,000-square foot expansion of its Royalton manufacturing plant in 2012.

Riehl said about $5 million will be spent on building the structure itself and another $5 million will be going toward the purchase of equipment, which will include eight “cleanrooms” housing an additional 30 injection molding machines.

Founded more than 60 years ago by two plastics engineers, GW Plastics shuttled through a series of corporate ownership changes before Brenan Riehl’s father, Frederic Riehl, the company’s plant manager at the time, led an investor group buyout in 1983.

Last year GW Plastics passed the $170 million mark in revenue — the company has seen consistent revenue growth, said Riehl, suffering only three down years in sales over the past 35, the most recent during the recession in 2009.

Underscoring the close relationship between the two institutions, Riehl gave the commencement address at Vermont Tech on May 18, telling the class of 300 graduating seniors that 20 Vermont Tech-educated engineers are employed at GW Plastics and “if I could hire each and every one of you today, I would.” He called VTC “one of the finest technical colleges in the country. A college that has provided you with one of the most practical and useful educations available today.”

Riehl exhorted the graduates to “seize the moment, put your roots down here in Vermont and build a career, a family, and an incredible life.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.