Global-Pak Provides Packaging Solutions

ELKTON, Ohio – When Jim Foster, president of Global-Pak, and his former partner, Kevin Channell, started their packaging solutions distribution company in 1998, they projected success but had no idea how fast it would grow.

Global-Pak started in a small, shared office at the port authority offices in East Liverpool with a loan from the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp. and a tiny amount of warehouse space. But it has expanded into its name, moving several times in the past 25 years, from East Liverpool to Columbiana to a former roller rink in East Liverpool before landing at the former Eells Poultry Farm in Elkton.

“These were good problems, just not good at forecasting the growth,” Foster said. “We had the goals out there, but I guess we underestimated the space that we would need to hit those goals.”

Foster said the Elkton Road farm was somewhat abandoned and rough, with feathers as well as briars growing throughout the buildings when they bought it at auction in 2014. Foster said he promised the employees once they got the property cleaned up, it would be good.

Global-Pak has since added on. There’s an additional building, a food-safe warehouse section, a workout facility for employees and office space.

Global-Pak is located at 9636 Elkton Road, the former site of Eells Poultry Farm.

Not only does Global-Pak stock bulk bags made of woven polypropylene in a variety of sizes, but the company also makes specialty bags to order. The bulk bags and products are quality tested, and some are guaranteed to hold as much as 4,000 pounds, Foster said. Additionally, the company can sew in handles and create custom sizes with both rounded and flat bottom bags. Bags can have a variety of liners, vapor barriers and be food safe.

Global-Pak has chemical liners for containers, specialty packaging for dry, flowable, powdered products, including sand and alloys for the steel industry. An area of the warehouse has stacks of small bags containing birdseed.

Last year, the company had $50 million in revenue, shipping products across the country, and to Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Philippines and Australia. The company has a second warehouse in Atlanta and an agreement with a logistics company in California to stock some of its products there.

Foster said he has plans to push the company into the $75 million to $100 million range in the next five years – through either additional sales people or by acquisition.

In addition to underestimating the space that was needed, Foster said there were other challenges through the years, including when Channell was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2018 and wanted out of the business. Foster bought his partner’s share of the business before his death in 2019.

When the company moved to the quiet farm location, Foster said he was concerned that internet connectivity would be a big challenge. But instead, he learned quickly from the Elkrun Township trustees that a fiber optic line runs from state Route 11 through Elkton for a school. He only needs about a quarter of the speed the line is capable of providing, which has allowed him to use cloud-based software instead of servers.

He said he believes the location – about halfway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, New York and Chicago – is ideal for shipping products.

“Really, I’m a big proponent of Columbiana County and the Mahoning Valley for business. I think it’s too well of a kept secret of how well it is, especially for somebody in the distribution business.”

The Company’s Employees

Although the employees may have been reluctant to move to the farm initially, they now seem to have a shared appreciation for the quiet location and the company.

There is a work-from-home program with flex schedules, which works well for young families and those taking care of their own parents. Besides the free gym that can be used on a lunch break or during off-hours, there is a walking path along the Little Beaver Creek.

Miriam Hostetler works on a product at Global-Pak.

Miriam Hostetler is among several Amish women who cuts bags to specific lengths and performs custom sewing on the bags. Jerod Carner, the warehouse manager, and Bobby Binder, the assistance warehouse manager, oversee the intake of new product and shipping logistics for customers.

“For the 10 years I have been here, everything has changed dramatically,” Binder said. “It seems like every year Jim brings on a new product for us. It keeps us on our toes and keeps the job interesting, for sure.”

Carner said Foster is always goal oriented, moving the company forward and always toward something positive.

Jacquelyn Butler, customer services manager, and Cindy Garver, customer service representative, are among those making sure clients have everything they need, not just the bags but other products that can be used along with them.

Butler said they help customers know what is changing in the market, overcome shipping delays and find options when they have a new product need.

Jerod Carner, left, is the warehouse manager at Global-Pak, and Bobby Binder is the assistance warehouse manager.

Waste industrial liners from Global-Pak were used during the cleanup in East Palestine after the February 2023 Norfolk Southern train derailment in the village.

“Basically, if it’s a packaging-based product,” Butler said.

Garver said she has spent most of her career in manufacturing.

“I came here, and it’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, from the standpoint of the individuals that I work with up to Jim as the owner. He’s a phenomenal owner, and he treats his employees very well.

Butler added that the company is more of a “family environment” and accommodates a work-life balance.

“You’ve got to have a good time to enjoy your job,” Garver said. “And we do that. We know when we have to sit down and get to the nitty gritty of doing everything, but we have a good time together too.”

Pictured at top: Jim Foster, president of Global-Pak.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.