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Plastics plant encapsulates growth

Ven-Tel Plastics expands its operations in a move from two buildings to a larger plant.

By SHARON L. BOND

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- Ven-Tel Plastics Corp. is consolidating its manufacturing plants and warehouses into a new $6-million facility under construction on 114th Avenue N.

The plastics molding company will more than double its current space when it moves into the 104,000-square-foot facility at the end of the year, according to Edward Venner, the company's owner. Now the business is in two buildings on 115th Avenue N and uses two remote warehouses.

"The business is growing. We ran out of space. Everything was always in the building you are not in," Venner said.

Ven-Tel paid $1.5-million for 10.5 acres and is spending another $4.5-million to build the structure and upgrade equipment. Venner said he got an industrial revenue bond from Pinellas County, which means he is paying lower interest than he would have on a traditional bank loan.

Ven-Tel, formed in 1981, expects sales of $5-million this year, Venner said. It has 80 customers for which it makes specialty plastic products on 39 molding machines.

About 50 percent of its business comes from the medical field, he said. The company makes pop-off caps for medicine bottles, tracheotomy tubes and breathing masks. Other customers are in the automotive and electronics fields. A latch made by Ven-Tel is on a storage area in the Dodge Durango that holds the tire jack.

One company buys license-plate frames from Ven-Tel. And for one account, the company makes scallop shells that are decorated and attached to night lights.

Venner, 66, said that after years of struggling to get to the $1-million annual sales mark, the company is increasing business rapidly because it is getting more customers with bigger orders.

"We went to $2-million in one year and $4-million the next," Venner said. "After that it slowed down. We are growing about 15 percent to 20 percent per year."

Venner said that having a chunk of business in the medical field has protected the company somewhat from the current economic slowdown.

"People need medical supplies year round," he said.

Both manufacturing and plastics are big business in Pinellas County, according to Ron Waselewski, marketing manager for the county's Economic Development Department. After tourism, manufacturing is the county's second biggest business.

Pinellas' reputation for beautiful beaches tends to obscure the importance of manufacturing.

"Pinellas ranks No. 2 in the state in manufacturing employment and No. 3 in total number of manufacturing firms," he said.

"Plastics are one of the major industries in Pinellas. There are 107 plastics manufacturing firms in Pinellas County. In the state, we are second only to Miami-Dade, which has 115."

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