Great Northern has a long history in the packaging, POP merchandising, and protective packaging markets. Here is a look back at some of our major events over the past 60 years.
In 1962, social acquaintances Jim Davis, Bob Brown, and John Maring took a gamble on a new corrugated box business with each contributing funds to start the company. They named it Great Northern Container. Davis, who was previously associated with Marathon Division of American Can Co. was elected president of the Corporation. Brown had experience in sales at Wisconsin Container Corp., Menasha, and was elected vice president and secretary. Maring was previously sales manager of the Menasha Wooden Ware Corp.’s corrugated plant and was elected vice president and sales manager at Great Northern.
The First Employees
Great Northern’s initial work crew consisted of 15-18 employees as company slowly grew to fill out an eight-hour shift. By 1965, the operation had three shifts working to fulfill orders.
The First Customers
One of Great Northern’s first customers was Presto Products located in Appleton. Presto was a private label plastic bag and wrap manufacturer with customers like Sears, A&P, and Shop Rite. Great Northern provided a variety of packaging solutions for their products. Presto continues as a customer of Great Northern today. Other customers included Borden in Plymouth, WI, and Ripon Foods, a snack item manufacturer in Ripon, WI.
The First Facility
Soon after Great Northern Container was founded, construction on a 30,000 sq ft plant was started on Stroebe Road in Appleton, WI. Until the plant was complete, the first offices were located on East Wisconsin Ave. in Neenah, WI. According to Bob Brown, “In the early days, we would go get the orders and then find someone to manufacture the containers for us and ship them.”
The original manufacturing plant was a 30,000-square-foot building constructed on farmland. Two more additions would take place over the years, bringing the first building to over 180,000 square feet. This allowed Great Northern, then known as Great Northern Container, to provide finishing work on corrugate sheets that were purchased.
The First Expansion
In 1975, the 390 Stroebe Road building that housed our first corrugator was constructed across the street from the main plant. The original 80,000 sq ft $3 million plant underwent a 90,000 sq ft, $7 million expansion in 1985. Brown recalled, “We started as a sheet plant that was a pretty basic operation where you buy paper from other companies that combine the paper into corrugate.” The plant supplied corrugate sheets for both the Appleton and Racine operation which opened in 1969.
Through The Years
Great Northern Corporation is founded
Great Northern Plastics is established
30,000 sq ft facility opened in Racine, WI to broaden our geographic reach. Among our first customers was Western Publishing who produced Golden Books
Great Northern forms a joint venture with Hayes Manufacturing named Laminations Corporation
Specialty Group is formed with Rollguard® and Custom Packaging
Corrugator installed in new 80,000 sq ft facility in Appleton, WI
Great Northern changes name to Great Northern Corporation as company expands into new markets and product lines
Great Northern sells its plastics facility to Tuscarora, Inc.
A state of the art package testing facility is established in Appleton
90,000 sq ft corrugating and conversion facility expansion in Appleton leads the industry in automation and modernization
Great Northern celebrates its 25 year anniversary and installs cellular phones in company vehicles
Racine expands with 108,000 sq. ft. addition
Acquires Laminations, an industry leader in edge protection
Laminations adds a manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, FL and the following year moves its headquarters to Appleton
Racine facility expands again with 90,000 sq ft addition
Acquired Kell Container in Chippewa Falls, WI
Opened StrataGraph in Oshkosh, WI
Opened New Jersey-based design center
Acquired Creative Carton in Minneapolis, MN
First of two HP digital presses installed in Chippewa Falls, WI
Two Ward ServoGraphix Flexo presses and Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 162 Litho press installed
Great Northern Corporation becomes Great Northern
Great Northern acquires United Displaycraft, a manufacturer of permanent displays, expanding our retail portfolio
HP High Speed Web Digital press installed in Oshkosh, WI
StrataGraph brand merged with Great Northern Packaging group