Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award – Gary Hellinger, Garyline

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Gary HellingerGary Hellinger, CEO of Gary Plastic Packaging Corp. (asi/55990), could have been milking cows for a living, but changed course after he decided the life of a dairy farmer wasn’t for him. “I graduated from Cornell in ’62, married and began to make and sell plastic products in ’63, after completing my active duty with the Army Reserve,” he says.

As Gary Plastic Packaging grew, Hellinger became dissatisfied with the contract injection molders he was using, so he set up his own shop in the South Bronx. “I made the decision to lease a building and several injection molding machines and begin my own manufacturing, assembly and printing,” he says.

For Hellinger, the key has been operating from that facility and hiring locals. “From the outset, our company was based upon hiring and training unskilled local residents and relying upon government programs including energy assistance with the responsibility to retain and hire, and train additional employees who otherwise were unemployed, disadvantaged or handicapped in some way,” he says. In fact, when the building opened the company had 50 employees occupying 50,000 square feet. Today it employs over 400 and has expanded to 290,000 square feet. In addition, that workforce has been running three shifts since 1967.

The firm’s foray into the promotional products industry came after nearly 20 years as a strictly plastic packaging manufacturer. “In 1982, my wife Marilyn (president of Garyline) began her own line of plastic products which we manufactured, printed and assembled, and we called it Garyline,” he says.

She looked to repurpose products the company was already creating into promotional items, and one was an ice scraper. From there the company grew its product line by adding blow molding capabilities as recommended by his son Richard Hellinger, president of Gary Plastic Packaging Corp.

And after 50 years, there are no signs of slowing down. “We are committed to remain a USA manufacturer and printer of promotional products, and though we have developed many opportunities to add robotics, our employment is being retained and growing as our earliest commitments were made back in the ’60s,” Hellinger says.

On the forefront of using recycled material, Garyline continues to lead the way in compliance, as it is a QCA-accredited supplier. “Our most important assets are our employees, and of course our customers,” Hellinger says, “We will do whatever it takes to make the customer responsible to their clients.”– JH