Growing faster than the industry, GT Container is acquired by Green Bay Packaging
You may have seen one of their big rigs rolling along area roads with the Grand Traverse Container logo emblazoned on the side and wondered what kind of containers they were hauling.
You may have guessed that the company, co-founded in 1995 by Tom Schofield and Mike Chereskin, provides industrial containers for manufacturers, which they do.
But you may not realize that you’ve probably come in contact with many of their products on a regular basis. If you’ve ever enjoyed Great Lakes Potato Chips or Black Star Farms’ wine, you’ve likely held one of their corrugated containers. Grand Traverse Container has served almost 2,000 different clients, with about 700 regulars, over the past two decades-plus.
“We do what we do and we do it very well,” said GTC General Manager Brian Blain at the company offices situated at 1050 Business Park Drive in Traverse City. “We have about 100 team members here in Traverse City and another 100 or so at our operation in Grand Rapids.”
Even with those almost 200 team members, Blain is looking to add more workers. GTC is in a continual state of seeking reliable employees in both skilled and unskilled positions. “We could use about 10 more people, including hi-lo drivers, machine operators, general operators and assembly production,” he said. “We’ve tried several methods to attract workers, including billboards, radio ads, social media. We’ve spent a lot of time and money to find good people.”
They’ve also hung a large banner on the back of the building touting the starting wage of $15 an hour. It’s easily seen by motorists heading north on Three Mile Road near the Cherry Capital Airport. “We’ve gotten a few people from the banner,” said Blain.
The company runs two eight-hour weekday shifts, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at its 90,000 square-foot plant in TC. Inside the clean, well-lit building, workers are busy producing all types of containers, all the while stressing safety. “Safety is a huge issue with us,” explained Blain, noting that the company has gone almost 1,300 days without a lost-day injury.
GTC also operates its own fleet of trucks and drivers to bring in corrugated cardboard from a plant in Arkansas and ship out finished products. On a typical workday, 12 to 14 big rigs roll into and back out of the TC facility.
Tom Schofield and Mike Chereskin started GTC in 1995 and it’s been a legacy of non-stop growth over the decades. “We’ve had four different additions to the building,” said Blain.
And the company just expanded again, adding another 2,200 square feet for storage and extra work space. Even during the recent Great Recession, the company held its ground and increased revenues a bit. “When our core business was slower … when it popped back out of the mini-recession everyone’s business grew like crazy and we also had our best years in our company’s history,” said Blain. “It has been double digit increases every year since in sales.”
Perhaps surprisingly, GTC’s initial product was not corrugated boxes, but spools that held high-tech digital wiring for the burgeoning communications and technology industries. The custom-designed corrugated boxes came later, along with die cuts for products that need a custom fit. GTC also makes kits that can be knocked down or easily assembled, partitions that protect parts from contacting other surfaces, and attractive custom-designed displays with labels and printing that make them shelf-ready.
GTC has also served clients in the automotive, food and agricultural industries. “We’re a lot more than paper,” said Blain, who has been with the company for 14 years.
Over the past 24 years, GTC has consistently grown at a rate faster than the industry. That attracted suitors and in July 2018, the company was acquired by Green Bay Packaging (GBP) of Wisconsin.
“The acquisition of Grand Traverse Container is a great fit for Green Bay Packaging,” said Will Kress, president and CEO of GBP. “GTC has the perfect culture, workforce and strong leadership that fit the GBP model.”
Green Bay Packaging is a family-owned and operated company that handles about 2% of the national packaging business, according to Blain. It produces folding cartons, recycled and virgin liner board mills, pressure-sensitive label roll stock, specialty converting operations, timber lands and its own sawmill.
“Green Bay is a third-generation company that has been around for many years and is looking toward another 100 years,” said Blain. “They’re building a new $675 million plant in Green Bay to replace their 80-year old mill. They’re really interested in giving back to the community of Green Bay.”
Like GTC, the Wisconsin company stresses safe working processes. “They are all about safety,” he said. “They are 100% safety driven. Every meeting starts and ends with it.”
While it may be flying under the radar of the general public, Grand Traverse Container is well-known to businesses across the region and the nation. Some of its clients include:
Black Star Farms, Suttons Bay
Benjamin Twiggs, Traverse City
Dole Foods, Westlake Village, Calif.
Cherry Republic, Glen Arbor
Kleenex (Kimberly-Clark) Irving, Texas
Little Town Jerky Company, Falmouth, Mich.
KBMD Health Products, Plano, Texas
Great Lakes Potato Chips Co., Traverse City
Todd Greiner Farms, Hart, Mich.
Bardenhagen Berries, Lake Leelanau
ViewTech Borescopes, Traverse City
Yazaki North America, Canton, Mich.
Shorts Brewing Company, Elk Rapids
Riverside Farms, Elk River, Minn.
Superior Foods Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Tuxedo Corn Company, Olathe, Colo.
Big Joe Water Pads, Grand Rapids, Mich.