Machine helps Hawk fly high

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Shane VanHoeven reaches to hold a piece of paper as Keith Eller cuts the sheet at Hawk Converting.

Hawk Converting is one of several new businesses in Lewisburg and its emergence from the Hawkins' family-owned Lewisburg Printing business proves an often repeated maxim among industrial developers. Most new jobs come from expansion of existing businesses.

Kathryn Hawkins and her sister-in-law, Re Kelso, started Hawk Converting after working in the printing business and realizing there was a way to form their own business, provide a service to their family's printing business and grow the service to other printing companies.

And the beauty of it all is that it's a very simple service.

"We buy rolls of paper and cut the rolls down into sheets," Kelso said.

The machine the ladies bought is huge. It's a MarquipWard United brand cutter. MarquipWardUnited is an international manufacturer of high-speed corrugating, sheeting and finishing equipment. Hawk Converting's cutter was made in Madison, Wis.

It can cut a wide variety of paper and cardboard into sheets so a printer has just what's needed to print what their customers want. British-made roll stands feed the cutter the long paper to be cut to size.

"We sheet it to size," Kelso continued. "Commercial printers want it at their specifications."

That can save the printers time and money since the stacks of cut paper can be warehoused at Hawk Converting and shipped when needed.

That kind of manufacturing logistics is a basic formula today. It became widely known in Tennessee in the 1980s when the Nissan plant in Smyrna required parts suppliers to deliver their products "just in time" for the vehicle assembly line.

"Coming from a printing background, we saw it as an opportunity," Kelso said. "It's something Lewisburg Printing needed... Kathryn and I saw an opportunity to capitalize on it."

Hawk Converting is at 891 Industrial Drive in Lewisburg's Industrial Park, accessed off the Fayetteville Highway.

Kelso and Hawkins hired Clint Holt to be their plant manager.

"This was a great opportunity," Holt said. "I feel real blessed that the Hawkins family asked me to do this."

Kelso and Hawkins feel the same way, saying in unison, "We're blessed to have him."

And like the industrial recruiters' maxim about most new jobs coming from expansion of existing businesses, Hawk Converting has started to build pallets.

They build their own so they fit the size of the paper they're to hold, but the owners say they'll be glad to custom build pallets for other businesses.

The work force at Hawk Converting consists of Hawkins, Kelso, Holt, Shane VanHoeven, Keith Eller, Kevin Bills and on Friday last week, Doug Duke was on the job at the pallet construction table. He is contract labor to help start up Hawk's pallet production.

The service provided by Hawk Converting is available from other businesses, but they don't have such a central position in America such as Lewisburg's location, Hawkins and Kelso said.