Fleenor Paper Company: Making Recycling a Family Affair

Fleenor Paper is a leading manufacturer of environmentally friendly packaging. Although we work with many industries, servicing the moving and storage industry is what gave us our start and continues to be a large part of our business. One of our specialties is manufacturing paper blankets for international relocations. With manufacturing plants nationwide and a network of distributors, Fleenor has the ability to design and deliver custom products in pallet quantities anywhere in North America. Due to this footprint, we can efficiently ship out of any US port to better service our overseas customers.

The company was established in 1962 by LeRoy Fleenor. While working as a typesetter and printer for a local newspaper company, he noticed a salvaging opportunity to utilize “waste paper” bring thrown daily into dumpsters. Reminiscent of other entrepreneurs, LeRoy started his business in his garage where he converted this scrap paper into sheeted newsprint using a homemade sheeter that used his wife’s carving knife as the blade! Soon he sold his first pallet of paper, founding Fleenor Paper Company. By the late 1970′s, LeRoy had acquired or constructed several other machines to service the moving, printing and packaging industries throughout Northern California.

Over the last 50 years, in addition to our Northern California location Fleenor has added manufacturing facilities in Southern California, Texas, Georgia and New Jersey and has established a distribution network throughout North America including Alaska and Hawaii. Today Rebecca Fleenor and John Rochex, the second generation, run the company with the same spirit and innovation that shaped the company in its beginning.

Fleenor Paper Company’s green company logo is far from a meaningless symbol. Starting with LeRoy, it has been Fleenor’s priority to create packaging solutions utilizing paper that would otherwisebe disposed of as waste or as a recycling element. Our goal is to find another function for the paper BEFORE it gets re-pulped and recycled.

We are happy to report that over 90% of everything Fleenor produces is made with some type of recycled or reused material. Additionally, many of our products can be used more than once, and then, when it is finally time for them to be disposed of they can easily go into the recycling stream. Fleenor Paper Company has always worked hard to purchase its raw materials from secondary or “cull” markets. All of the dunnage products we sell at Fleenor (sheeted paper and newsprint used for packaging) are made from paper that that was originally intended to be used in the printing industry but was rejected for various reasons such as basis weight or color variations to roll damage. These reasons cause the paper to be unsuitable for use on high-speed printing presses but do not cause problems for use in the packaging industry once the paper is converted.

This “reuse” philosophy is actually better for the environment than if we were to use new recycled paper to produce our product. Our method needs no energy or chemicals to re-pulp the rejected paper to make new paper. We only use paper cutting and converting equipment to remove non-viable paper. This unused paper is then baled and sold to waste dealers for recycling.

At Fleenor we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint in our facilities. For example, by having multiple manufacturing plants located across the country, we shortened the distance our trucks travel to distributors and ports. Additionally, Fleenor facilities have installed special energy efficient lighting and skylights as well as having begun the process of phasing out our propane forklifts with electric lifts.

For our customers, our products are some of the most economical and environmentally friendly packaging solutions out there. The range of materials that we use to manufacture our product gives customers a multitude of options – without having to compromise consistency. By using our network of distributors, a client with multiple locations can get the same product in all of their locations while cutting down on fuel cost and emissions. In addition, those distributors that are in the Fleenor network also contribute to the reuse and recycling stream and do their part to be “green” organizations as well.

As the current owners honor and emulate the entrepreneurial roots of LeRoy Fleenor, we continue to purchase scrap paper and develop processes to better utilize this paper supply. However, we never forget what really made our company special and enduring: our people. Most of our managerial staff has been with the company for more than twenty years, and are key contributors to Fleenor’s success and growth. At Fleenor Paper Company we take pride in our devoted employees. Their loyalty and hard work speaks volumes to the vision and values of the company.

Fleenor Paper given SBA honor

STOCKTON – A leading manufacturer of environmentally friendly packaging for a variety of industries that was founded 50 years ago in a garage has been named U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2012 Northern California Small Business of the Year.

Fleenor Paper Co., with a 130,000-square-foot plant in the 4200 block of East Fremont Street in Stockton, will be honored this week during Small Business Week in Washington, D.C.
“I was proud to tell my employees we were chosen for this award,” Rebecca Fleenor, the chief executive officer of the Oakland-based company, said in a statement released by TMC Financing. “We’ve grown by $10 million per year these last few years. Everybody’s had to work very hard, and there have been personal sacrifices. The award gives us a boost.”
TMC Financing approved and funded an SBA loan for Fleenor Paper to buy the 130,000-square-foot building in Stockton in 2005. Fleenor Paper subsequently worked with TMC to purchase two office condo facilities. It was TMC that nominated Fleenor Paper for the award.

“For us to get a building as nice as the one we have in Stockton and to be able to afford it was a huge step,” said Fleenor. “Getting the building was the whole reason Fleenor was able to expand these past few years. We wouldn’t have been able to do it if we had to come up with a 20-25 percent down payment. The extra working capital went directly into the growth that we’ve experienced.”

“Fleenor is an outstanding business, showing tremendous growth, giving back, and supporting its employees,” said Mark Quinn, SBA San Francisco district director. “Since the mid-’90s it has grown under the leadership of Rebecca Fleenor and John Rochex from a small, family-owned business to becoming a national leader in the paper conversion business with 300 employees and $60 million in sales.”

“TMC is thrilled to nominate Fleenor, a woman-led, environmentally-friendly company, for this award,” said Barbara Morrison, TMC’s president and chief executive officer. “Rebecca and her family not only contribute hundreds of jobs to the economy, they also have a well-rounded vision of success that rewards hard work and gives minorities and women opportunities to move into positions traditionally held exclusively by white males.”

Fleenor Paper Co. was founded in 1962 and is a leading manufacturer of environmentally friendly packaging for a variety of industries. It has five manufacturing plants across the country and network distribution centers covering the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Fleenor: One printer’s waste is another’s product

The SF Business Journal and www.bizjournals.com

It’s hard to make a business out of another company’s trash. Especially when that trash is the result of something companies endeavor to avoid — production error.

Such is the challenge for Fleenor Paper Co., an Oakland-based paper-converting company.

LeRoy Fleenor, originally a journeyman printer, started Fleenor Paper Co. in 1962 after witnessing the large volume of paper that was wasted in the printing industry. After creating a machine to convert waste paper into packing material, LeRoy sold the product to his first customer, Macy’s Movers, out of the back of his truck.

LeRoy left the company in 1984, and Fleenor Paper Co. was ultimately purchased by his daughter, Rebecca, her sister-in-law, Janine Rochex, and Rochex’s brother, John. It is now 74 percent women-owned.

The company is on target for $20 million in revenue in 2005, thanks to the sale of millions of disposable “paper blankets” to movers like Bekins and Allied Van Lines each year, along with packing material, paper tablecloths for restaurants and even shredded Easter basket paper.

Rebecca Fleenor, who started 20 years ago as the company receptionist, moved up the ranks through inventory control, accounting, paper purchasing, and operations. Along the way, she said, she fell in love with the business. She was chief operating officer before being named chief executive officer in 1996.

But, she’d like to point out, her success was not just because of family legacy.

“Despite being brought in, we had to earn it,” Rebecca Fleenor said. “John and Janine wanted me to be CEO.”

Under her leadership, Fleenor Paper Co. just expanded its manufacturing facility from a smaller building in Oakland to a 130,000 -square-foot building in Stockton, which also houses a number of new machines. The company recently acquired its first office space in Alameda, and has also expanded its nationwide distribution capabilities to include 15,000-square-foot hubs in Hawaii, Alaska and Seattle.

Fleenor brought a woman’s touch to the leadership of the company with her ability to recognize and reward talent in places where it previously would have gone unnoticed — and with her willingness to make promotions based more on hard work and less on academic degrees.

Ramon Cazares didn’t speak English when he began working in the Fleenor manufacturing plant. It was his work ethic and loyalty that caught Fleenor’s eye.

Soon, he was promoted to forklift driver. He moved up to the position of foreman, and then production manager. Currently, he is an operations manager, overseeing a Fleenor plant.

Regardless of the success stories within, the challenge remains in maintaining a steady stream of supply: bulk paper that has been damaged or print runs that have to be scrapped because of mistakes. Printers loathe to waste paper — the lifeblood of Fleenor’s business — and take pains to avoid such mistakes.

The solution seems to be Fleenor’s philosophy about ethics and business relationships, which she said has kept the company going through the inevitable lean times.

One striking example is Fleenor’s decision to tell a paper supplier that she was paying a competitor more.

“It was a dilemma,” she said. “Do I tell them? I do. It would be unethical for me not to.”

A difficult decision to be sure, but the reward was a loyal supplier who became even more loyal. And in a business where you have to “wine and dine” your suppliers, that is no small feat.


Company: Fleenor Paper Co.
Description: Paper converting company.
HQ: Oakland.
CEO: Rebecca Fleenor.
2004 revenue: $17.8 million.
Founded: 1962.
Employees: 131.

Paper Plant takes Big Step

STOCKTON — Fleenor Paper Co. Inc., a producer of packing products for the moving and storage industries, packed up its Oakland and Ontario manufacturing plants in January and moved them to Stockton.

With each machine taking weeks to set up, the production facility is now nearly fully operational.

“Moving to Stockton was a leap of faith,” said Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Fleenor, who compared the experience of relocating the plant with giving birth.

“If I’d known how hard the labor was going to be, I wouldn’t have begun,” she said.

The pain, she said, has been justified by the progeny — a larger facility, lower business costs and more affordable housing for the plant’s 50-plus permanent employees.

“I have a lot of production workers who now have a fighting chance of buying a home,” she said.

The 130,000-square-foot, rail-served Fleenor Paper plant at 4201 E. Fremont St. is nearly four times the size of the former Oakland facility, which the company had leased for 20 years.

The Ontario plant, which came along with the recent purchase of another paper-converting business, was also leased.

This time, Fleenor will be exercising an option to buy the building, she said.

That building holds stacks of partial and full rolls of new and damaged newsprint, wax-coated paper and nonwoven material that massive machines will recut and sometimes layer or glue to make into products ranging from wrapping blankets and packing paper to Easter grass and table covers.

Fleenor has to scrapefor scrap.

“There’s a finite amount of scrap paper in the world. We’re all vying for a limited pool,” Fleenor said.

While paper converting is an unromantic industry, the business has value as a producer of needed products, a recycler of off-quality paper and an employer of year-round and seasonal workers.

“It’s been a good way to support all these families over decades,” Fleenor said.

The plant runs 24 hours a day, six days a week during the peak summer moving season, when its work force will swell to more than 100.

Fleenor has made a significant and appreciated investment in San Joaquin County, said Douglass Wilhoit, chief executive officer of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce.

That contribution will be honored at the chamber’s Industrial & Technology Barbecue in September, he said.

The overall effect of the paper-converting industry — a subset of the paper or packaging industries that is difficult to classify — is unknown, according Ken Waghome of Pulp & Paper publisher Paperloop.

The Fleenor family entered the niche paper industry more than 40 years ago when Fleenor’s father, the late LeRoy Fleenor, a journeyman printer, railed against the wasteful practice of throwing roll ends away.

So he tinkered in his garage, developing a machine that unwound the paper from the rolls and cut it into squares for packing material.

By the early 1980s, when he left the company, Fleenor Paper was still small, grossing about $1.5 million annually.

“My father ran the company out of his hip pocket,” Fleenor said.

Fleenor returned from Mexico, where she was completing a degree in bilingual education and working as a waitress, to serve in various capacities at Fleenor Paper for the next decade.

Her brother, who had a degree in animal physiology, took over the company reins, which he relinquished to Fleenor in 1996.

Today, Fleenor shares ownership and management responsibilities with former sister-in-law Janine Rochex and Rochex’s brother, John Rochex.

She is proud of the company’s women-owned status, and is prouder that it has flourished under her unapologetically feminine management style that relies on personal, collaborative relationships with managers.

“If this is a girly way of doing business and it doesn’t work, then we’ll go out of business,” she said. “So far, we’ve done better because we’ve run it this way.”

Fleenor Paper has an East Coast manufacturing plant in Macon, Ga., which sells truckload quantities of packaging supplies to distributors.

In the West, the company has distribution facilities in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii that batch-up its own products and those of other moving supply vendors to sell directly to movers.

This year, Fleenor Paper anticipates gross sales of about $24 million, Fleenor said.

In a labor-intensive business with low margins, such a profit represents high volume.

“We’re a big company, but we don’t have a lot of money. At the end of the day, our profits are small,” Fleenor said.

Contact reporter Michelle Machado at 209 943-8547 or mmachado@recordnet.com

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