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Brian McCullough, Staff Writer 11/24/2004

WEST CALN -- Three tons of nails a day.

Seventy-five thousand new pallets a week, or about 3.8 million a year.

Six hundred different pallet configurations.

Ninety full-time employees, making it the largest employer in the township.

Revenue growth that has doubled over the last five years, pushing it to be the largest new pallet manufacturer in the country.

Those are the numbers representatives of John Rock Inc. boasted of as they officially opened their new 115,000-square-foot manufacturing plant Tuesday.

The plant represents a major expansion for the company, which left a 35,000-square-foot facility in Downingtown to accommodate its future projected growth.

"We were out of room," Bill MacCauley said in explaining the company’s move west. "This had the right amount of acreage (almost 19). It’s been great."

John Rock is the first to open of six businesses that have signed up to locate in the new Meetinghouse Business Park, part of a mixed-use development located primarily in Sadsbury that skirts into West Caln and Valley.

John Rock invested $7.5 million in building the plant and buying equipment to make the move, MacCauley said.

MacCauley called the project "a challenge," noting that the opening took place about four months later than he had hoped due mostly to delays in an access road being completed. MacCauley attributed the delay to weather. The first pallet rolled off the line Oct. 28.

About 96 percent of the company’s business is in new pallets while recycling old pallets accounts for about 2 percent, said Steve Hedrick, general manager at John Rock.

Drug company Pfizer and EP Henry, a maker of masonry products, are John Rock’s largest customers, although no one customer or industry make up more than 7 percent of its business.

"It’s very diversified," Hedrick said.

The company does not have quantity goals, Hedrick said, instead focusing on improving quality with the expectation that doing so will allow the company to continue to grow, the general manager added.

John Rock gets its wood -- many different kinds are used in pallet making -- from suppliers in the U.S., Canada, Poland and South America. It makes 600 different pallet configurations for customers in dozens of industries.

Six nailing lines that can each put out 200 pallets an hour dominate the cavernous factory floor.

Making remarks at Tuesday’s grand opening were Gary Smith, president and CEO of the Chester County Economic Development Council, state Rep. Art Hershey, R-13th, of Cochranville and U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th, of West Pikeland. Representatives from West Caln, Sadsbury and Wilmington Trust, which provided the financing for the project, also were on hand.

Smith said he was particularly pleased a manufacturer was able to stay in the county.

"Manufacturers kind of get pushed off to the side" in a county where much of its growth is tied to biotechnology and financial services, he said.

Hershey said John Rock is the kind of small business "that is the economic engine that runs the country."

MacCauley, who bought the company from John Rock in 1997, said American companies can compete globally only by demanding the best of themselves.

"We play the Super Bowl here every day," he said. "That’s how you’re going to survive."

İDaily Local News 2004

 

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