Avery Dennison celebrates half a century in Lenoir

Jul. 16, 2014 @ 05:03 PM

Work stopped around noon at Avery Dennison Wednesday, and the more than 260 employees sauntered outside, to ice cream, barbecue and games in recognition of the plant’s 50 years of operation in Lenoir.

Avery Dennison, a global manufacturer of labeling and packaging materials, first came to Lenoir in July 1964 and since that time has grown and developed into a Lenoir staple.

Glenda Shew, office services assistant at Avery Dennison, has seen much of that transformation in her 42 years with the company, where she has seen the business evolve from having one huge IBM computer and sending payroll via telex machine.

Today, the high-tech machinery is all run by computer, and the days of Shew having to come back to the office in the middle of the night to clear a paper jam from the printer are long gone.

“It’s always been not a team, but a family,” Shew said, and in times of trouble or strife such as a co-worker coming down with cancer, everyone pitches in to help.

That is part of what has helped the company reach this half-century milestone, along with drives to develop employees, investing in their success, and “fostering their ideas, because they know what’s best,” plant manager J.R. Turner said.

Today, the company employs more than 260 in its 244,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on German Street in Lenoir.

Shew can remember when the rest of the property was just a big field, roughly the size of two football fields, which the plant has expanded to occupy.

And as the work has changed from mechanical to computerized, becoming more modern, the workforce’s ability to adapt and be flexible has kept the operations running very well, Turner said.

“That’s the nature of the group,” he said.

Shew’s story is not uncommon among a workforce including veterans such as Elaine Nelson, who first started working at the plant two weeks after her 18th birthday 46 years ago, and Ruth Bentley, who has worked there for more than 40 years.

Shawn Neville, the company's president of retail, branding and information solutions, was on hand at the celebration Wednesday to let the Lenoir plant know just how much it means to the company and its future, saying it is one of the oldest plants in all of Avery Dennison, and also one with the most exciting opportunities for the future.

That new opportunity is expanding the heat transfer, or garment printing, portion of Avery Dennison, which has been gaining traction for the company in the past few years. In this year’s World Cup soccer tournament, 75 percent of the teams utilized Avery Dennison’s technology in some way.

It’s an area that Turner said may be doubling in the coming year, and that could mean hiring more employees into the Avery Dennison family.

“We’re looking forward to another 50,” Turner said. “We’re excited, it’s a great milestone that not all achieve.