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Delmarva Corrugated starts hiring ahead of October opening

Katie Tabeling

Delmarva Corrugated is nearing completion and is expected to open in early October, with around 75 employees to start. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CENTRAL DELAWARE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

DOVER — With site development steadily underway, the $91 million Delmarva Corrugated Packaging plant has eyes set on opening for production in early October with plans to gradually ramp up to full production.

As North Star Construction finalizes the 497,000-square-foot building on Delaware Route 15, Delmarva Corrugated has hired around 30 hourly employees to date. The new hires are training at its Newark, N.J., plant ahead of its opening. The “super plant” hopes to hire at least another 30 employees before it opens Oct. 8, according to Delmarva Corrugated President Jeff Coleman.

There will be 145 people hired at Delmarva Corrugated in total, including 90 hourly employees. The company will also hire for various roles like sales, maintenance, and office staff. The plan is to have the plant fully functional by May 2022 with 75 employees.

“This will be the most modern corrugated box plant in North America,” Coleman said in an Aug. 13 interview. “Like many folks, we’re trying to automate as much as possible to help our throughput. All the jobs we create, we believe will be value-added jobs. We believe we’re hiring people for what’s between their ears instead of their backs.”

A Friday visit offered state and Kent County officials the first look at the major manufacturer that announced last fall it would be closing its New Jersey operations and relocating to the First State. As a branch of  Four M Manufacturing, Delmarva Corrugated looks almost complete from the outside, but a closer look inside the facility shows a floor plan that gives a sense of the equipment size and workflow.

North Star Construction hired about 125 people for construction, with roughly 75% of the workforce being Delaware residents.

As a corrugated box manufacturer, Delmarva Corrugated will receive massive rolls of paper, weighing 3 tons each wrapped up in rolls that stand more than 9 feet tall and nearly 6 feet wide. 

That paper will be fluted, or the “S” shaped waves found in between the boards, through the corrugated machine. It will also be treated with a corn starch material, which gives it that stiff consistency found in cardboards.

To illustrate the corrugator machine’s capacity, Coleman told officials that if he were to take the machine and put it in the U.S. Route 1 facing north, the laid-out board would reach Boston, 390 miles away.

After the boards are corrugated, they will be sent down converting lines to be printed, cut and in some cases glued to make a box.

With more than 100 loading docks, Delmarva Corrugated should ship about 75 truckloads of corrugated boxes a day at full operations. But to start out, Coleman said the company will handle 37 tractor-trailer loads daily. Each load is $15,000 in value, he said.

“We hope to double [the tractor-trailer loads] quickly. There’s a lot of good opportunities here, and we have competitive advantages,” Coleman said. “We’re not affiliated with a paper mill, which means we shop for the right paper for the right application.”

Delmarva Corrugated typically buys paper from Québec, Canada, and Tennessee, which is usually brought in by rail line. Some of the paper may be trucked in by Virginia, but Coleman said that the site’s accessibility to rail was key to its relocation.

On a business front, Delmarva Corrugated will be bringing several of its beverage accounts to Delaware, but it is also looking to land new clients. Coleman said he started conversations with GT USA Wilmington about using the company’s boxes while shipping produce to Chile and Peru, as well as poultry industry leaders.

The biggest prospect at the time may be the confectionary sector in Pennsylvania, Coleman said.

“Whereas our competitors are vertically integrated and trying to take the same roll of paper and try and use it for the same application, we try to buy a different paper for Amazon and a different one for potential poultry clients,” he said.

Delmarva Corrugated is working with Polytech Adult Education programs and the Department of Labor to staff up, but it has also made offers to existing staff at the closing New Jersey plant. Some accepted the offer, but it is a struggle to find affordable rental units nearby.

The starting salary is $15 an hour and can go as high as $30 an hour, while benefits can range in value from $12,000 to $18,000.

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