Georgia manufacturer working to keep jobs at home


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A former salesman for the contract packaging industry, John Anker has a simple business model: Stay flexible and hustle for new clients.


His Columbus, Ga., business, Ankerpak, opened its newest location a little over a year ago. The 80,000 square-foot facility supports the company’s third-party logistics services.


“We have 3 facilities now: packaging, manufacturing, and distribution services,” the Ankerpak CEO said.
With a total of more than 240,000 square feet of industrial space, the company employs 63 people full time, while its packaging services business uses two temporary staffing groups on a daily basis.


A Georgia Ports Authority customer, Ankerpak handles repackaging and distribution of imports for its clients, as well as the export of peanut-related products for Georgia growers. Ankerpak is one of more than 1,200 small Georgia-based businesses moving less than 100 twenty-foot equivalent container units via the Port of Savannah each year.


Ankerpak clients range from privately held consumer products companies to multi-billion global companies in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and textile industries.

“Our packaging and manufacturing company brings in bulk consumer products and packages them for retail, and then we store them in finished goods,” Anker said.


Packaging services include overwrapping, blister packaging, kitting, display fulfillment and high-speed labeling.


“Our back-end software systems integrate with our customers, and we pick their LTL orders and ship them directly to retail distribution,” he said, adding that some of Anker’s customers are privately held start-ups that have grown into global brands.

But Ankerpak provides more than logistics services; it also has a light manufacturing wing. This part of the business started by making bobby pins, and now also produces Sharpie china markers, Magic Rub Erasers, Mean Streak markers, textiles, and corrugated boxes. The Georgia company also re-manufactures commercial air conditioning and refrigeration compressors.

“Our manufacturing business is really unique.  Our largest customer is Newell Brands, a $15 billion CPG,” Anker said. “We moved their complex manufacturing machinery into our facility and provide them with finished products such as Sharpie grease pencils and Magic Rub erasers that are competitive with pricing from across the border or overseas.”


His manufacturing philosophy is to win business that might otherwise be outsourced to foreign markets to keep jobs in the United States – particularly in Georgia.


In a May 2018 episode of the radio program Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal, Anker told the interviewer of one instance when he heard a customer was about to offshore a plant.


“I ran to them and I said ‘Wait, why are you going to China? Can I do that?’” Anker recounted. “And they said ‘John we’re moving all our manufacturing. All you're doing is packaging for us.’ As it ended up, they came back and gave me an opportunity to keep some of the manufacturing here as opposed to moving it as originally planned to China.”


It's a major selling point of his brand.


“We are able to take some of the most difficult manufacturing jobs and run them effectively in our Georgia facility while competing on price with factories in China and Mexico,” the company’s website touts. “The result: we add value with flexibility, faster speed to market, and consistent quality.”


Beyond the broader good of keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S., Anker said his operation has specific benefits for the Georgia residents he employs, offering them a stepping stone toward more advanced manufacturing operations.


He said the key to his own success has been Ankerpak’s willingness to take on high-volume, low margin jobs that pay off over the long run.


“I've said it many times: it takes 100 pennies to make a dollar, and all I want to make is one penny at a time,” Anker told Ryssdal. “I'd like to make a dollar at a time. But if it takes 100 pennies, I'll do it that way too.”