A venture that began decades ago in a local family’s garage has grown into a business with a sprawling expansion, a new partnership and connections to customers across the North American continent.
ColePak, still a family-run business, is putting the finishing touches on approximately 90,000 square feet on their existing 17.773 acre site at 1030 S. Edgewood Ave. in Urbana. This expansion is in addition to 200,000 square feet already existing at the Edgewood Avenue facility.
CokePak provides interior packaging to a wide range of industries and ships all across the country and also into Mexico and Canada.
ColePak has expanded several times since its founding in the late 1980s.
In 1987 Rick Cole, his wife Deborah and their four children started assembling corrugated partitions in their garage for a former employer, Riblet Packaging, which provided corrugated boxes for shipping products for various industries.
Corrugated partitions are the dividers inside the box that offer protection for many different types of products during the shipping process.
Rick discovered there were other packaging companies that needed the partitions the family was producing and soon the new orders were becoming too much for the small garage. In the early 1990s, the Coles moved their company to an older industrial building on Glenn Avenue in Urbana that was formerly the home of New Age Recycling Center.
According to the company’s own history, the Cole family’s attention to quality products from design, production, and on-time delivery resulted in a need to hire the first employees outside of their family and ColePak, Inc. was founded.
By 1994 it became apparent once again that a larger building was necessary to continue to serve the customers that relied on ColePak. A new 12,000-square-foot building was constructed in the Damewood Industrial Park. At this same time, Jason and Ryan Cole were added to the management team to facilitate the addition of chipboard/fiberboard partitions to the product line. A few years later, Adam Cole also made the decision to join the family business. This second generation of Coles has continued to be a primary force in the continued growth and success that ColePak has experienced for almost 40 years.
Currently, Colepak is a leading manufacturer of paper partitions in North America serving the glass container, automotive, pharmaceutical, and other packaging industries. In 2018 the company purchased the Navistar building on Edgewood Avenue and added an office addition to the front of the building facing state Route 55. ColePak has 130-plus employees and two shifts. ColePak also has a sister company, Fortress Packaging in Napa Valley, California.
“The future remains bright for the company as the third generation of family members continues in the tradition,” according to a statement provided by ColePak.
Local impact of growth
With each expansion, the company has grown its footprint locally.
As an incentive for this expansion project, Urbana City Council approved a CRA (Community Reinvestment Area) agreement between the City of Urbana and Phoenix Drive Properties LLC (the property owner) with the job creation commitments to be assigned to ColePak upon project completion.
This CRA agreement provides a property tax exemption of 75% over an eight-year period for the newly-expanded portion of the plant (new 90,000 square foot addition) as a result of the capital investment and job creation at the site.
According to city of Urbana officials, with the exception of the expanded portion of the facility subject to the CRA agreement, the remainder of the property remains unabated.
In addition to Urbana City Council, the boards of education of the Urbana City School District and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center also approved this CRA agreement.
Furthermore, by written agreement, when more than $1 million in new payroll is created by the project, the city agreed to share a portion of the new city income tax revenue with the respective school districts.
The total project investment is approximately $4.25 million, according to data provided by the city.
The company agreed, by June 30, 2027, to create 40 new, full-time permanent jobs (at least 35 hours per week) with an aggregate new annual payroll of $1.8 million.
In addition, the existing 117 employee positions will be retained.
“The city of Urbana recognizes ColePak’s continued expansion in Urbana over the last 30-plus years, and we look forward to the company’s continued growth in our city,” said Doug Crabill, community development manager for the city of Urbana. “Furthermore, this expansion project builds upon the recent economic growth in Urbana and specifically growth within the southwest industrial area of the city.”
ColePak’s commitment to the local economy is part of its core mission.
“This additional space will help us to continue to grow and add jobs to the community,” according to a statement from the company. “The Cole family feels blessed to be a part of the community of Urbana and surrounding area. The employees from this rural farm community are good, hard-working people who are major contributors to our family’s goals and success. We are a family of faith and want to treat our employees, customers, and suppliers the way we would want to be treated. This is what we strive for every day.”
ColePak has recently entered into a new partnership with a company named Greif.
“Greif has been a key supplier to ColePak since our company was established in 1987, in fact our supply relationship with Greif was fundamental in the early stages of our company’s growth. Much has changed since then, and now ColePak is one of the largest partition operations in North America and is ready to accelerate that growth even further,” according to a statement from ColePak.
“Our new partnership with Greif allows us to secure the paper supply and financial backing of a $6.4 billion global business and generate significant opportunities for us to serve our customers even better. Additionally, as part of the Greif network our customers gain access to a diverse array of other paper packaging products and services.”
The Cole family will continue to operate the business as usual on a day-to-day basis.
“Our partnership enables Greif to assist ColePak in growing while still maintaining the exemplary customer service both organizations value as our number-one priority,” the company statement noted. “It will also enable us to better serve our customers, and offer a more comprehensive product and service offering.”
Freelance writer Katie Milligan contributed to this story.