By Lawrence Bivins
Proximity to the nation’s major poultry producers makes Rocky Mount a convenient base for Ossid LLC, a diversified leader in packaging equipment and solutions. But there are other Twin County assets that make the company, part of the ProMach Group, productive and profitable.
The company’s customers venture from near and far to Ossid for training at the company’s 65,000-sq.-ft. facility at Fountain Industrial Park. “They come from all over the U.S., Canada, Mexico and other countries,” says Ernie Newell, vice president and general manager at Ossid. The company’s machines are sold to buyers as far away Australia, Europe and South America. “We have customers coming from all those locations to visit us.”
Ossid’s operations are about 75 minutes from RDU International Airport, and Rocky Mount’s quality hotel space is easily capable of accommodating customers visiting the company either for training or as part of the sales process. Those traveling to the facility by ground also find it accessible. “We have a lot of East Coast customers, and I-95 is great for them,” says Newell.
The company began in the late 1970s out of a two-car garage. It moved from a location in Scotland Neck to Rocky Mount in 1989. A decade later it was acquired by ProMach Inc., a privately-held company headquartered in suburban Cincinnati. ProMach has operations around the world, along with a portfolio of brands across the whole spectrum of packaging. “They’ve brought a lot to us in terms of the support and strength of a large organization,” says Newell, who began working at Ossid in 1983 while still a student at Tarboro High School. “But ProMach also allows us to operate more or less independently. They give us the guidance that we need while also allowing the flexibility to make our own day-to-day decisions.”
Ossid’s 80-person workforce in Rocky Mount includes 15 mechanical and electrical engineers holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “We’ve brought in engineers from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and the West Coast,” says Newell. Rocky Mount’s welcoming nature eases the recruitment process. “Our workforce is very family oriented,” he says. “It’s not hard to move here. You’re not an outsider for long.”
Employees with a taste for a larger metro area opt to live in the eastern Wake County suburbs and commute to Ossid. The 45-minute drive time is far more manageable than the daily slogs those in Chicago or Atlanta face, for example. “Access to Raleigh allows me to hire any engineers I need,” Newell says.
The balance of Ossid’s workforce is largely filled with workers trained by nearby community college partners. “We’ve hired good people out of Nash Community College’s machining program,” says Newell. The company also maintains a close relationship with Edgecombe Community College. “ECC has done several training programs for us, including Six Sigma,” Newell says. Such workforce development services are available at little or no cost to the company. “The support we’ve gotten from the community college system has been very good.”
The company’s talent base has enabled it to embrace opportunities in pharmaceutical and medical device packaging, a high-growth industry segment. But Ossid’s leadership is most evident in its design and manufacture of packaging equipment for fresh and processed meats. Its product lines include weigh-price labelers, case-ready tray overwrappers, horizontal form-fill-seal machines and in-motion case-weight scales.
Ossid customers include Sanderson Farms, Perdue, Butterball and Smithfield Foods. In particular, rising global consumption of chicken and turkey keeps the company’s Rocky Mount operations humming. In 2015, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization predicted poultry will account for over 50 percent of the world’s total meat production over the coming decade. Emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India are expected to provide most of the additional demand. Closer to home, changing dietary habits on the part of U.S. consumers account for surging domestic demand for chicken and turkey. Poultry enjoys a healthy image, while low feed costs and short production cycles keep retail prices more stable and affordable compared to beef and pork.
“People are eating a lot healthier than they used to,” says Jason Angel, Ossid’s vice president for sales and marketing. “Poultry is part of that.” He says the company’s buyers include large-scale producers as well as small and mid-sized chicken and turkey providers. “We continue to bring on new product lines and grow the business,” says Angel.
The company clearly values employee loyalty and rewards initiative and longevity. Angel started his career at Ossid at age 19 as an assembly-line technician. As part of ProMach, Ossid employees have access to global career development avenues through ProMach’s business lines and 25+ global product brands. “Opportunities are always arising to grow within the organization in many different ways,” Angel says.
[Lawrence Bivins is author of North Carolina: The State of Minds (Cherbo Publishing: 2004)].