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Glenwood manufacturer embraces community partnerships

Local, county, state and federal officials met Friday in south suburban Glenwood to help a manufacturing company celebrate completion of a $10 million expansion.

Morrison Container Handling Solutions employs 114 skilled workers and had a 2021 payroll of $7.8 million, CEO Nancy Wilson told a group.

“We’re always recruiting,” she said. “We’re kind of picky about who we hire.”

The family owned company has experienced steady growth since its founding in South Holland 51 years ago in 1971, she said. Operations moved to Glenwood in 1995 and sales have doubled in the past five years, Wilson said.

“We design and build custom equipment used on packaging lines,” she said. “We don’t develop containers. We don’t fill them.”

Morrison Container Handling Solutions makes machines that sort, flip, separate, combine and manage packaged products for food makers and other customers.

“When you walk into the grocery store and look at all those containers that are on the shelves, we’ve likely had something to do with them along the way,” Wilson said.

From its humble beginnings in an 800-square-foot shop, the latest 100,000-square-foot expansion increases the company’s footprint to 122,000 square feet, she said. That’s a lot more room to make equipment used in production lines.

“The example I often use is the apple sauce handler,” she said. “We’ll get the single-serve apple sauce containers. We’ll receive them after they’re packed and still warm.”

The manufacturing process becomes more automated all the time, she said.

“We’ll split it and put one on top of the other,” Wilson said. “Then we’ll group it in a four pack, or a six pack, or an eight pack. Then we’ll hand it to the customer, who will put the cardboard around it.”

Many of the company’s workers combine the skills of mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, she said. The company partnered with Purdue University Northwest, which has a campus in Hammond, Indiana, to offer an academic degree in mechatronics, Wilson said.

Partnerships benefit everyone, she said.

“When you connect your community it matters,” Wilson said. “You can make an impact.”

US Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, said Wilson was a role model for other women.

“When you think about women in manufacturing, you don’t hear about that enough,” Kelly said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the community was an anchor and leader in the Southland. Wilson is a founder and co-chair of the Calumet Manufacturing Industry Sector Partnership and serves on the Southland Development Authority board.

“This investment and the company’s success serve as symbols of the strength of the Southland, which is a center for manufacturing in our county,” Preckwinkle said. “This is a family owned and operated company. They’re the foundation of the Southland. It’s not big multinationals, it’s family owned firms.”

Wilson told a group of regional business leaders last year that economic development representatives from Indiana and Will County courted the company when it was looking for more room to expand. The company, however, decided to invest in south Cook County, she said.

The county offers economic incentives to help businesses grow and add or retain employees and offset the costs of high property taxes.

“All of these investments in the Southland are bearing fruit,” said Cook County Board member Donna Miller, D-Lynwood. “We have seen more than $1 billion in private investment in the region, and this is an example of that.”

In an era when some corporations are criticized for evading paying their fair share of taxes, Miller said Morrison Container Handling Solutions was a good corporate citizen.

“You could have moved anywhere,” Miller said. “I’m glad you chose the Southland.”

Glenwood Mayor Ron Gardiner praised the company for offering internships to college students and participating in an annual robotics competition for area high school students.

“We’re so impressed with all the things that you do, especially the nurturing you do with young people,” Gardiner said.

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Thomas Keon, Chancellor of Purdue University Northwest, said 15% of the school’s enrollment are students from the south suburbs in Illinois.

“Universities can play leadership roles in communities, particularly in the area of ​​economic development,” Keon said.

The university will soon offer a doctoral degree in technology, he said, another sign of the importance of manufacturing in the region.,

The expansion will enable Morrison Container Handling Solutions to continue growing its business, adding employees and customizing production systems for its clients, Wilson said.

“The single thing we care about is making sure every customer is satisfied,” she said.

Ted Slowik is a columnist for the Daily Southtown.

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