Tuesday, February 16, 2010

16 February 1951: DairyPak Welcomed to Athens

On this day in 1951, the Athens Chamber of Commerce officially welcomed DairyPak Incorporated to Athens, Georgia. Executives of the company were the guests of honor at that night's annual dinner at the Athens Country Club, complete with "half-pint size milk carton place cards" on the tables and an original song by a local ensemble about "the wedding of Miss Athens, Georgia and Mr. DairyPak." The executives and their wives were also all presented with copies of William C. Davis' book Columns of Athens: Georgia's Classic City. Athens Mayor Jack R. Wells and chairman of the Commission Harry H. Elder also addressed the dinner.

As part of the Chamber's welcome to DairyPak, the Athens Banner-Herald ran over 40 ads by local businesses offering their individual welcomes to the newest member of the Athens business community. Larger companies, such as C & S National Bank and Belk's took out ads, as did smaller local firms such as Benson's Bakery and Hale Brothers Shoe Shop. Michael Brothers Department Store featured a half-page ad stating that "One of Athens' Oldest Welcomes Athens' Youngest;" Mathis Construction Company, which had the contract to build the facility, bought a full-page ad with an aerial shot of the new factory. Almost every ad featured a milk carton. The paper also ran several pages of stories covering the history of the company, the biographies of the executives, and photo essays that showed how DairyPak cartons were made and filled by dairies around the nation.

DairyPak chose Athens for their new milk carton production facility after surveying seven Southern states the previous summer. The company brought 300 local jobs to the area, not counting those employed to build the factory itself. It was the "first major 'outsider-owned' industry" to come to Clarke County. The paper reported that, once in full operation that spring, the factory would produce 1.5 million cartons per day. At the dinner, company president Clarke Marion noted that their policies "are based on the principle of men dealing fairly with men," and that they "appreciate the difference between profits and profiteering."

DairyPak, created by a merger between two Ohio paper companies at the time, has gone through several different owners in recent years, but continues to make cartons in Athens, Georgia, until this day. In 1999, as part of Blue Ridge Paper Products, to celebrate 1 million production hours without a time-loss accident, all the employees were given a steak dinner and an embroidered jacket. At the time, they manufactured cartons for all Minute Maid products for the United States and some for Canada. The company now employs under 200 hourly and salaried workers, and is part of New Zealand-based Evergreen Packaging.

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