Kelley Clonts has commuted from her Polk County home to one of Bradley County's biggest manufacturers for the past 19 years while the aerosol and specialty chemical production plant has changed owners four times during the past two decades.
Clonts is among the 150 employees who survived the 2022 decision by the German personal-care products maker Beiersdorf to close the Cleveland plant it bought in 2019, idling most of the staff at the facility that once employed nearly 500 workers.
"There are a lot of longtime employees here, and it was tough when Beiersdorf said it was closing the plant," Clonts said Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting at the plant marking the newest owners. "We love the new owners, and they have brought a real family feel to the business."
In February, the 44-year-old plant on Michigan Avenue was acquired by Formulated Solutions, a contract supplier of aerosols and medical pressurized packs, tubes, liquids and solids.
Formulated Solutions Chairman and founder Eric Dann said he was looking for additional production capacity to keep up with the company's double-digit annual growth pace, and the Cleveland plant is needed for more capacity than what was available at the company's three other plants in Florida.
"I feel fortunate that we are here," Dann told plant employees and community leaders gathered Wednesday to mark the ownership change. "Never once did we buy a facility or purchase a piece of property to build on where we felt more compelled that we had a great opportunity to succeed. I don't think we could have found another scenario where we could have gotten such an amazing group of people who are so knowledgeable in our industry and the products we produce like when we walked into this facility."
Formulated Solutions, which is headquartered in Largo, Florida, is investing $43.6 million to buy, equip and prepare for further growth of what will be its biggest production plant at 423,500 square feet. Victor Swint, a former CEO of Tecomet Inc. who was hired in November as the CEO of Formulated Solutions, said the Cleveland plant represents the biggest investment in the 24-year history of Formulated Solutions.
"This doubles our capacity in critical areas of our business and gives us the opportunity to continue to grow," Swint said.
Unlike the past, when the plant produced branded products for the previous owners — Bayer Healthcare, Schering-Plough, Merck and Beiersdorf — Formulated Solutions is a privately-held company that helps to create and supply products, aerosols and chemicals for about 60 pharmaceutical giants around the globe.
The plant will still make solutions and chemicals used for products like Coppertone.
"Our business model of being a contract manufacturing organization, I truly believe, is going to make this a very sustainable, growth-oriented opportunity for everyone who is here," Dann said.
The new owners are beginning to hire back some of those who were displaced by the recent Beiersdorf cutbacks, and ultimately, Dann said, Formulated Solutions will look to hire hundreds more workers.
"Our headquarters plant in Largo is at full production, so this is a great opportunity for us and a big commitment to the city of Cleveland and these employees for growth," he said. "I'm really excited to see what the next chapter of this story looks like here."
To help spur the purchase and expansion of the plant, the city of Cleveland and Bradley County granted the new owners property tax breaks on part of their new investment.
Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks said such incentives were designed to help sustain the plant, which he said has a long history of helping to sustain families in the Cleveland area. The average tenure of employees at the plant is 17 years, and the new owners have maintained the wage and benefit levels from the previous owner.
"What I see here is the Formulated Solutions family, and I see hundreds of Cleveland/Bradley County families that are supported by the legacy of this plant," Brooks said during Wednesday's ribbon-cutting.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6340.