HAZLE TWP. —More than 250 jobs, including 95 newly created ones, will be coming to southern Luzerne County over the next three years as a packaging firm moves into an under-construction facility in the Humboldt Industrial Park next year.
Tech Packaging Inc., a contract packaging firm based in Jacksonville, Fla., announced Wednesday it is constructing a 223,200-square-foot facility with the aim of opening in the spring.
As heavy machinery readied the lot off Oak Ridge Road, elected officials, economic development leaders and others welcomed Bob Janes, the company’s president.
As guests — including state Sen. John Yudichak, state Rep. Tarah Toohil and Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce chief Donna Palermo — listened to speeches and made some of their own, the roar of the bulldozers and rollers echoed in the background.
“It’s a sweet sound for the economy of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, said.
Janes said the idea of building a new plant in the Mid-Atlantic has been on the drawing board for five years. Binghamton, N.Y., initially had been viewed as the likely site. But at least one of the companies contracted by Tech Packaging — Frito Lay, which has a site in the park — said Hazleton was a good location.
The Hazleton area was chosen “in large part because of its logistics, including the proximity to interstates 81 and 80,” Janes said.
But there were other factors, too, he said. A good history with the local work force at the Berwick plant, tax and other financial incentives and a ready-to-build site all weighed in the decision.
The 32-acre parcel was purchased by the company from Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services. Mericle, a Luzerne County-based company, has been hired to do the site work and construction facets of the project.
‘Ready to go’
Janes offered praise for the number of so-called “Ready to Go” sites Mericle has created throughout the region as something that’s very attractive to companies. “That’s something you don’t see in a lot of parts of the country,” Janes said.
He also made it a point to talk about the work ethic shown by employees throughout the 13 years the Berwick plant has operated and how the reputation for this region’s labor pool has been proven true when it comes to his company. “The workers (here) seem more eager to work than some places where we have other facilities,” Janes said.
Toohil, R-Butler Township, said not only is the region’s workforce a dedicated one, but also “we have good workers and they want to work.” She, like many of the others who spoke, tried to let Janes know his decision to locate here was the right one.
“Thank you for choosing us. You won’t regret it,” Toohil said.
The jobs will pay between $22,800 and $70,000 and will be posted through area CareerLink offices. Two managerial jobs are already posted, with starting salaries of $45,000, according to Christine M. Jensen, administrator for CareerLink in the Luzerne County.
Timeline for hiring
The company expects to hire 95 full-time workers within three years of the plant’s opening, said Janes, plus it will employ 165 of the 245 people currently working at the Berwick plant, which opened in 1998.
The Berwick plant, Janes added, will also be able to hire additional workers in the near future as it will have some space to grow when certain contracts are transferred to the Hazle Township facility.
“Tech Packaging has demonstrated its commitment to Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Kevin O’Donnell, the president of CAN DO, an economic development organization serving Greater Hazleton.
Founded in 1990, Tech Packaging provides a variety of services including shrink wrapping, repacking, relabeling and date coding. The Hazle Township facility is expected to handle approximately $15 million in inventory a year once up and running.
“The Hazleton facility demonstrates our ongoing commitment for continuous improvement and is a testament to the relationships we have built with our customers,” Janes said. “This facility is a milestone in our long-term initiatives to maintain our position as a leader in our industry. We are excited to be able to contribute to the Hazleton economy and the community.”
The company received a funding offer from the Department of Community and Economic Development, including a $250,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant and a $42,750 Guaranteed Free Training grant that will be used to train its new workers.
The property also was approved for KOZ status by the county, township and Hazleton Area School District, meaning it will not pay real estate taxes for up to 12 years.