GW Plastics Sustains Growth in Sales Revenue

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 2/10/2018 11:29:06 PM
Modified: 2/10/2018 11:29:06 PM

Bethel — GW Plastics, one of the largest manufacturers in Vermont, expects to see its sales pass the $170 million mark this year, said the company’s chief executive, Brenan Riehl.

The contract manufacturer, which specializes in making injection molds for the health care and automotive markets, is considered one of the state’s bellwether advanced manufacturers, with its facilities in Royalton and Bethel that employ more than 400 people.

The company, founded 60 years ago, has continuously posted higher revenue in all but one of the past 15 years, when it saw a temporary fall-off during the height of the 2008 to 2010 recession.

“We’re on our way to becoming a $200 million company,” Riehl said in an interview last week.

About two-thirds of GW Plastics’ business serves the medical device market, such as surgical instruments, drug delivery systems and diagnostic applications; and one-third serves the automotive “safety critical” industry, such as safety restraint systems.

The company also makes molds for products in the water and industrial filtration industries.

As is in the case with many manufacturing companies, GW Plastics plows a large slug of its cash flow back into new equipment.

GW Plastics typically spends about $10 million in annual capital investments, which last year included upgrades at its Royalton tooling division and process development center in addition to the purchase of a state-of-the-art metal 3D printer.

Those capital expenditures will only increase in the wake of the recently enacted federal tax cut, which many businesses are applauding.

“The tax cut is definitely welcome news for us, as it is for every other manufacturer in the country,” Riehl said. “We expect to to use the benefits of the tax cut to re-invest in the business which should make us more competitive in the global market.

“It gives us additional head room to invest in the business,” he added.

What’s more, Riehl said, GW Plastics already has noticed that the new tax law is leading to U.S. companies bringing work back to their domestic factories.

About $2 million of last year’s capital expenditures at its Royalton mold-building plant went to support research and development and plant expansion, including $1 million for advanced metal 3D printing equipment that can make metal injection molds the size of toasters.

The 3D printer can shave as much as 30 percent off the time it takes to make a mold, and with greater precision.

“We call it ‘growing steel,’ ” said Tim Holmes, vice president of engineering at the company. “It allows us to make injection molds that otherwise could not be produced with traditional technology.”

This year’s capital investment plans follows up GW Plastic’s purchase last summer of Avenue Mould Solutions in Ireland, which makes molds for the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. Then last fall, NeraTek Ltd., a product development and 3D printing company, was merged into Avenue Mould. Both companies are based in Silgo, the precision tooling industry center in northwest Ireland.

The Ireland companies now give GW Plastics a plant location in Europe, adding to its current manufacturing facilities outside of Vermont in San Antonio, Tucson, Ariz., Mexico and China.

Only last month, GW Plastics signed an agreement to occupy a 33,000-square foot fulfillment warehouse in New Hampshire to accelerate delivery times to customers in southern New England. In 2017, GW Plastics completed a 14,000 square foot expansion at its San Antonio facility, which followed a 21,000-square foot expansion in 2016 at its Royalton site. The year before, in 2015, the company completed a 30,000-square foot expansion at its site in Tucson, which included a “clean room” molding facility.

“The Avenue Mould acquisition now gives GW Plastics an international presence on nearly all the continents in North America, Latin America, China and now in Europe,” Riehl said.

GW Plastics currently has more than 1,000 employees around the world, including 400 in Vermont (the recent Avene Mould acquisition added 50 employees to the company).

About 80 percent of the company’s sales are in the U.S., and 20 percent overseas, according to Riehl, with the majority of them to Fortune 500 companies.

Despite the growth of the company, Riehl said there are no plans to turn GW Plastics into a public company.

“I don’t think we’re ready for that,” he laughed, when asked about the possibility. “That’s probably a hassle we don’t need. Because we are privately held, we are able to take the long view. We’re not chasing quarterly earnings.”

John Lippman can be reached at

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