The events of Jan. 30, 2015, remain etched in Steve Shiparski’s mind. That was the day Dow Chemical closed its packaging films plant after more than 50 years in Findlay.
“We all walked off the site, they shut the door and it was no longer Dow Chemical,” remembers Shiparski, part of the plant’s leadership team at the time.
But Shiparski also vividly remembers what happened two days later.
“A majority of us returned to the site and turned the lights back on,” he says. “Valfilm was open for business in Findlay, Ohio.”
The transition from Dow to Valfilm USA, a subsidiary of Brazilian company Valgroup, can be credited to a collaboration between the two companies and a partnership among JobsOhio, Regional Growth Partnership and Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development, which worked together to facilitate the purchase of the plant. As a result, some 55 Dow employees – most of the 72 formerly employed there – transitioned smoothly to Valfilm. An additional 80 jobs were created by Valgroup’s $9.5 million investment in the plant.
Dow’s decision to close the plant opened a door for Valgroup, which manufactures polyolefin films similar to those produced by Dow. In fact, it was Dow that reached out to Valfilm about purchasing the plant when Dow decided to close. Valfilm – one of Dow’s largest customers – was already looking for an opportunity to open a plant in the United States.
“We were looking for the last 10 years to come to the United States,” explains Tiago Geronimi, director of Valfilm USA, “but we weren’t sure how to start from zero. This was a great opportunity for us. And people from Ohio helped us a lot with the transition and to close the deal." Valgroup originally had planned to base its U.S. operations in the Carolinas or Texas. But the benefits of Ohio’s infrastructure were too valuable to ignore, Valgroup CEO Carlo Bergamaschi remembers.
“We found out that the big customer market is here, and that we could be serviced by rail,” Bergamaschi explains. “So actually, we found that logistically it made sense.”
According to Geronimi, additional advantages included nearby colleges and the support of the thriving plastics industry in Ohio. “It was a prime location for us to continue to grow.”
Not only has Valfilm’s move to Findlay helped create jobs, the company plans to add more by doubling its workforce in the future. For the city and its residents, additional jobs are the biggest benefit of all.
Shiparski, now operations manager for Valfilm, remembers the sting Dow employees felt at the prospect of losing their jobs and leaving a solid company like Dow. “That building has housed a lot of people’s growth in their own careers,” he says.
The transition to Valfilm employment, however, has shown those employees that Valfilm values them just as Dow did, Shiparski says. Not only did Valfilm welcome its new employees, the company encouraged them to actively help build the new company from the ground up. “The fear turned into excitement about being entrepreneurial,” he says. “It’s been an exciting journey thus far, and it’s only been two years.”