Columbus Container Inc., a private, family held business established in Columbus in 1975, has agreed to be sold for $100 million in cash.
A competitor, Illinois-based Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), announced after the stock market closed Tuesday that it was purchasing all Columbus Container’s assets including a 161,000-square-foot facility in Seymour.
PCA will acquire the full-line corrugated products facility in Columbus, five warehousing facilities and other related operations in Indiana and Illinois. The sale, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.
Bob Haddad Sr. and his wife Helen — who have been married 62 years — moved from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, to Columbus in 1973. He had taken a job with Hoerner Boxes, but turned down a transfer two years later to stay in the community and start Columbus Container, he said.
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Columbus Container was founded on a shoestring “on a dirt road (in a building) with no heat,” Haddad said.
With just a few employees at the start, Haddad has spent half his life building the company and increasing the workforce to 260 people at its Columbus corrugated products facility.
“It’s grown and will continue to grow. That’s my legacy,” Haddad said.
The company’s footprint in Seymour grew after the purchase of Gardner Box Co. at 2200 D Avenue East at Freeman Field Industrial Park in 1992. At that time, Gardner Box was located in a 28,000-square-foot building on an 8.5-acre site. The name was changed to Columbus Container, Seymour Division, in 1993, and a project to demolish the existing building and build a new building was announced that same year.
Gardner Box Co.’s Seymour plant was established by Don Gardner of Chicago and Don Hindeman of Indianapolis in January of 1961. The plant began operation in the late summer of that year and made corrugated boxes for refrigerators and many other smaller containers.
In March 2013, Columbus Container announced plans to add 36,000-square-feet to its warehouse facility at Freeman Field. The project, which didn’t include any new jobs, had a $3.08 million price tag and included additional dock and parking areas near the building. At the time, the Seymour division had 11 employees.
The company grew to become the 10th largest manufacturer in Bartholomew County, and 21st largest business in all based on total employment, according to statistics kept by the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.
“The American Dream is not dead. It’s for you to do,” Haddad said. “Don’t give up.”
Haddad, who will be 84 in November, has spent half his life building the company, headquartered at 3460 Commerce Drive, between North National Road and Indianapolis Road on the northwest side of Columbus.
Haddad stressed four key points regarding the sale, based on promises made by PCA:
- The name of the company will stay the same.
- Small and larger customers will continue to be served equally.
- All employee jobs are secured.
- The new company plans on expanding and growing the Columbus Container business.
Second PCA acquisition
Columbus Container is the second corrugated products company in the past few months to be purchased by PCA, based in Lake Forest, Illinois, north of Chicago.
PCA purchased TimBar Corp. of Hanover, Pennsylvania, in a similar cash deal — for $386 million — announced in early July and completed Aug. 30.
“Following our acquisition of TimBar, this acquisition will further enhance our operations both geographically and strategically through additional integration and optimization of our warehousing and logistics capabilities,” PCA Chairman and CEO Mark Kowlzan said.
“Like previous acquisitions, the addition of Columbus Container is a great strategic fit for PCA,” PCA Executive Vice President Tom Hassfurther said. “They have in place an excellent management team that leads a highly skilled and dedicated group of employees and have earned an outstanding reputation in the marketplace.”
Maintaining a solid future for his hourly employees and managers was important, Haddad said.
“I know my employees and customers will be taken care of,” he said. “Everybody will maintain their job. They don’t plan on making any management change at this time.”
Haddad himself, the Columbus Container CEO, will stay on for at least six months and possibly a year during the transition, he said.
“I could extend if I want — as long as I’m healthy and can perform,” he said.
Haddad said he wanted to have a transition plan to protect his customers and employees. In nearly 42 years, Columbus Container has never had a layoff, he said.
“I’ve spent some time talking to Bob,” said Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. “He grew that company and he is one of the great entrepreneurial success stories of our community, and we should all be proud.”
Haddad said he has known PCA executives for years.
“They will make major expansions and serve the area,” he said.
It will be up to PCA, however, to decide whether to move forward with expansion on 38 acres in Edinburgh that Columbus Container purchased near an existing warehouse.
The company received approval in mid-August from the Edinburgh/Bartholomew/Columbus Joint District Plan Commission to rezone the land from commercial shopping to an industrial district, Haddad said.
Company officials told the commission in late June that the Edinburgh project was an estimated $30 million investment.
In the greater Columbus market, Columbus Container also has about 10 employees in Seymour.
“If anyone needs a job, come out here. We’re still growing. We have the reputation of a high-quality, growing company and they (PCA) want to continue that,” Haddad said.
Bob and his wife Helen and their four adult children — Tammy Burton, Bob Haddad Jr., Tracy Haddad and Hayden Haddad Bishop — are all stockholders of the private company.
Tammy Burton is administrative manager for Columbus Container. Bob Haddad Jr. runs Harrison Lake Country Club, which his father purchased eight years ago.
Bob and Helen also have 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
After working five days a week, eight to 10 hours a day, however, Haddad said: “I need to spend some time with family and have a good retirement.”
All four of the couple’s adult children are involved in managing the Haddad Foundation, which distributes about $200,000 a year — at least $5 million since its founding in 2002.
Besides launching the family foundation, Bob and Helen Haddad have been active philanthropists in the community on their own.
In March, the couple donated a building they own at 315 Franklin St. to the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic. That building — which the Philharmonic was renting — has served as the orchestra’s office and music instruction space since 2003.
Packaging Corporation of America is the fourth largest producer of containerboard and corrugated packaging products in the United States and the third largest producer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America. PCA operates eight mills and 95 corrugated products plants and related facilities.
For more information, visit packagingcorp.com
Columbus Container was founded by Bob Haddad Sr. in 1975. It has about 260 employees at its full-line corrugated products facility at 3460 Commerce Drive, between North National Road and Indianapolis Road on the northwest side of Columbus.
It is the 10th largest manufacturer in Columbus and the 21st largest employer overall according to a May 2015 database maintained by the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.
Columbus Container has six locations in Indiana and Illinois.
- Columbus Home Office: 248,500-square-foot facility at 3460 Commerce Drive, Columbus, which includes a warehouse, production, office and trucking space.
- Seymour Division: 161,000-square-foot facility at 2200 D. Ave E., Seymour, which includes a warehouse, production and office.
- Jasper Division: 35,000-square-foot facility at 240 S. Truman St., Jasper, which includes a warehouse, production and office.
- Flora Division: 190,000 square feet in two buildings at 50 Industrial Park in Flora, Illinois.
- Edinburgh Warehouse: 280,000-square-foot facility at 12599 N. Presidential Way, Edinburgh, which includes a warehouse and office.
- Indianapolis Warehouse: 124,000-square-foot facility at 7752 W. Morris St., Indianapolis, solely for warehouse operations.
Bob and Helen Haddad’s giving tradition originated in Columbus in 2002 when the couple established the Haddad Foundation with a desire to improve the community for all its residents. The foundation is managed by the couple’s four children; Tammy Burton, Bob Haddad Jr., Tracy Haddad and Hayden Haddad Bishop.
The foundation has five primary areas of interest.
- Youth development: To support programs that improve the quality of life and opportunities of less advantaged youth.
- Artistic programming: To support local music and art education, performances and public exposure to the arts.
- Education: To provide funding for local programs that enrich the education and experiences of children of all ages.
- Medical/health care advancement: To provide funding for medical education/research and healthcare improvement within the community.
- Disaster relief: To provide funding for assistance in emergency situations.
Information: Visit haddadfoundation.org/the-foundation/