Back in the Editourmobil, we are beginning to get excited about the next part of our tour: it will take us from Pennsylvania to our final destination: Denver, Colorado. This will be an epic journey of 1,600 miles Starting south-west from Buffalo, Lake Erie appears to our right. We take a quick break to admire the view over this amazing lake. It is the third of the big lakes in North America/Canada we have passed: Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, and now Lake Erie. We arrive late in the evening at a campground very close to our next appointment in Donora.
After a very rainy night, a sunny morning guides us to the new US Retal factory. The building is located in a very pleasant valley. While driving over an old industrial bridge we see the five big blue-shining letters of Retal ahead of us.
Admir Dobraca, President and CEO of Retal PA, LLC gives us an effusive welcome. Before giving us a private tour through his new facility, he ushered us into the conference room for a brief but enthusiastic introduction. It was like attending a press conference just for the two of us, and we really appreciated the honour. Admir, previously with Husky, tells us the story about building up this location and starting the business with Retal preforms and closures on the US market. Over an excellent lunch, he explains the challenges and the future plans for Retal in the US. They plan to grow, of course, and to create a Centre for Excellence in Donora.
From Pennsylvania we are hopping from state to state in a westerly direction, heading for Ohio. As we are driving along Highway 80 towards Toledo, something very funny and nice happens. We were caught in the act A car begins to overtake us and we notice the Agr logo on the side. The people in the car are taking photos of the Editourmobil. Later in the evening I check my email and send a message to Dave Dineff, Marketing Manager at Agr. He replies, saying that one of the passengers in the car was Henry Dimmick, CEO of Agr, and he recognised the Editourmobil. Then I get a message from Henry himself. Rolf and I immediately decide to drop in on Agr next day, after our appointment with Phoenix Technologies.
On the 5th of June we meet Lori Carson, Director of Commercial Operations at Phoenix Technologies. She invites us to view the post-consumer recycling plant with STF and S+S machinery. She gives us a lot of information about the situation as regards local recycling and the need to establish a lot more infrastructure for collecting and sorting post-consumer waste. She clearly has a difficult job on her hands, constantly having to communicate with all the participants to ensure their various goals are achieved. She has an awful lot of balls to juggle simultaneously In the afternoon we stop by at Agr. Henry is very surprised to see us at his facility, but very kindly takes us on a tour through the plant. He tells us how much he likes our road show. As we make our way through the Agr glass laboratory, the talk turns to the NPE show, and we discuss the bottle zone and the technical forum. I very much appreciate his feedback ;-).
From Ohio our next appointment takes us north to Michigan, heading towards Grand Rapids, Flint. Arriving there in the evening, very close to the Michigan Lake, we are very relieved to know that the next day is a day without an appointment. The campground is very tranquil, in the midst of a wood, giving us the time to savour the moment. On Wednesday we encounter Susan Lamar, Media Relations Manager at Fogg filler. She takes us through the newly-designed factory. On the production floor she explains to us step by step what is happening at each station and the employees show us a lot of their daily work and the challenges they face, from cutting plastic through to the gleaming filler. Fogg has been growing steadily in the past six months: around 40 people have been taken on. Fogg is also expanding its refurbishing area and has integrated an independent IT R&D service. They focus on guaranteed quality by training their employees. Every machine has its own separate manual which is used by the operators and customers. We thank Susan for taking a photo in front of the Editourmobil in the scorching 40°C heat
Our part of the tour is nearly at an end- there are just two appointments remaining and 850 miles to Denver. From this point there is a “holiday mood” in the air tomorrow we have to be in Missouri Our route will take us through Indiana and Illinois. We are ready to meet the challenge Late in the evening the skyline of St Louis with the Gateway Arch appears in front of us-passing by the big Six Flag Park we arrive on a campground framed by the highway and the railway. No time for a fancy meal – pasta is on the menu tonight. The meeting with Pretium tomorrow is at 11 a.m., a reasonably comfortable time.
The countryside is mountainous, but luckily our RV has a powerful engine. We arrive at the office of Pretium where we have a telephone conversation with CEO Paul Kayser. Kelly Dallen, Director of Marketing and Customer Services welcomes us with a table full of bottle samples, and placed right in the middle is the bottle that is of most interest to us – the Sure Handle. This 2l PET bottle is a first-of-its-kind bottle because it comes out of the injection mould with the handle already in place. Unlike traditional preforms, the Sure Handle preform features an injection moulded handle integrated into the side wall.
Premium Waters Inc. is the last appointment for us – and it rounds off the trip really well, because here we see a lot of our customer’s machinery e.g. Husky or Sipa. Bernie Zarda, Sr Vice President of this big water filler shows us his world of water: premium bottled, packages, distilled, caffeinated and flavoured waters, water coolers and water filtration systems. Water Joe for example is premium caffeinated water with a nice flip cap, sugar-free, no carbs, no colour just water with a kickIt’s exactly the kick we need to get us on our homeward path. The final two days go by like a familiar scene from the movies: the RV rolls through the never-ending Kansas corn fields, passing by some cows, going through tiny villages with one railway station, climbing up nearly 6000 feet. Then there are the nodding donkeys and huge boulders on the landscape. Just one more stop, close to the border of Colorado. We prepare the Editourmobil for parking in Denver and then we stretch our legs in the botanic garden in Denver, a welcome breather prior to our long flight home. It’s wonderful to be looking over the huge plains and the trees. With a solemn bow in the direction of the Rockies, we take our leave of Denver.