APPANOOSE COUNTY RETAINING AND CONTAINING SUCCESS
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
A COUNTY HOME TO AWARD-WINNING MANUFACTURER
Lee Container operates an impressive facility manufacturing high-density polyethylene plastic containers for beverages, lubricants, pet care, crop protection, and industrial and household chemicals. Unflagging dedication to the Appanoose Economic Development Corporation, sponsorship of Centerville Rathbun Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, and a new project, an extended hours daycare for the community, cast Lee Container as a shining star of Appanoose County. They exemplify the success, and commitment to community betterment that keeps Appanoose County going strong.
“Ten years ago, we started out here in the old Rubbermaid plant with two machines,” says Jay Dillard, Administrative Coordinator for Lee Container. The facility on the industrial site was a prime location with infrastructure for quick production. Ease of transportation, and the proximity of customers keeps shipping costs down, enabling effective maintenance of relationships with key accounts. “We went from only twenty employees to 200,” Dillard says. Lee Container now has sixteen lines, and is preparing for another. “It is beyond what we hoped for in the beginning.” The 600,000 square feet of storage space reduces lead time. “When a customer wants a specific container, there is a good chance we have the inventory on the shelf. That sets us apart.” Beyond the striking accomplishments in the market, the success of Lee Container is reflected in the culture of the workforce and their reputation in the community.
HEALTHY COMMUNITY = HEALTHY AND HAPPY EMPLOYEES
Though Lee Container is headquartered in Homerville, Georgia, President Varnedoe ensures that his company plays an active role in stridently improving the quality of life in Appanoose County. Sarah Lind, Executive Director of AEDC speaks of Lee Container’s commitment as “invaluable. They are so involved with everything we are doing and contribute generously to the community.” The positive outcomes are manifold. The health of the local economy, the quality of life, and the happiness of the employees are all improved. Excellent work conditions, generous 401K contributions, free full memberships to the YMCA, and shift work adaptable for various lifestyles have built a content workforce. Lind says that “Lee Containers is looking more at what a potential employee’s capability is versus his or her level of competency. Skills and talent can be developed.” This progressive stance on retention and recruitment shows adaption to an ever-changing workforce.
Touring Lee Container, the feeling and focus on a family environment is apparent. 51% of the employees are female. Compare that to the 9.2% Iowa women employed in manufacturing, and Lee Container is clearly unique. “We work together to make the facility better every day,” Diller says. A city-wide shortage of daycare is an issue that Lee Container is directly addressing. A former elementary school building developed into a daycare center took more than $100,000 of investment. The daycare center, owned by an affiliate of Lee Container, and operated by the contracted company Curious Kids, is an investment in retention. The center will be open for use by all in the community. Lee Container stands out in the effort to retain, and contain success in Southeast Iowa.