Icon (Close Menu)


Packaging Specialties a Printing Success in Fayetteville

5 min read

Dan Nichols can’t seem to leave Packaging Specialties Inc. of Fayetteville.

Nichols, 72, started working with PSI as an outside accountant when the company was founded by Hays Biggs in 1975. Twenty years ago, he left private practice to join the company as the vice president of financing.

“I should have retired a long time ago, but it’s too much fun,” Nichols said from his office at the company’s headquarters on Armstrong Avenue in south Fayetteville. “I look forward to going to work.”

Nichols isn’t alone in his sentiments at Packaging Specialties; as a 20-year Packaging man, he is actually one of the greenhorns at the company. When he gave a guided tour of the company’s production facilities and asked random employees their length of tenure at PSI, men and women responded with answers varying from between 25 and 40 years.

Scott Biggs, the 63-year-old son of the founder, joined the company six months after it began. He said four employees are 40-year veterans, nearly 30 have 30 years, and another 50 have been with the company for 20-plus years.

“We have virtually no turnover of employees,” Nichols said.

Not only is turnover rare, but Nichols said family networking is a critical component of new hires. Many of the employees are working alongside sons or brothers on the production floor; Nichols said there are third-generation workers at Packaging Specialties, including the grandson of the company’s founder.

“We don’t necessarily follow the rules,” Nichols said. “We have guys who work out here, and their sons work out here; their sons-in-law work out here; their brothers-in-law work out here. Our theory is if a brother recommends his brother, he’s going to be a good worker.”

The company values those workers, too, Nichols said, with a generous benefits package that includes 401(k) matches, gym memberships, 36-hour workweeks and a clothing allowance. Most employees, at some point during a workday, are going to come close to the thousands of gallons of printing ink, so clothes can get messy.

“I love to have HR people in here because I can drive them right up the wall,” Nichols said. “They can’t believe what we do. It’s pretty unique.”

Popular but Profitable

Nichols said PSI may be a fun place to work but it’s also serious business. It’s a profitable business to be sure, as Packaging Specialties generated approximately $140 million in revenue in 2015, a nearly 4 percent increase from the previous year.

Packaging Specialties contracts with companies to print packaging on the clients’ products. PSI has several different films for vertical resealable packages, wraparound packages such as water bottles and heat-resistant packages.

When Hays Biggs founded the company in 1975, Packaging Specialties contracted mostly with the poultry producers in northwest Arkansas. As the company grew, it diversified, so now poultry printing is about 60 percent of its business.

Packaging Specialties has production facilities in Gainesville, Georgia, and Burley, Idaho. It employs just shy of 350 employees nationwide, including 200 at its Arkansas facility.

The Arkansas facility is 63,000 SF and has office space but is mostly for the production from nine high-speed printing presses. PSI has five presses in Georgia and two in Idaho.

Six months ago, Packaging Specialties acquired a $6 million press that is capable of running 1,000 feet of printed film per minute on dual tracks simultaneously in Fayetteville.

Scott Biggs, a vice president, said Packaging Specialties succeeds because it is all about taking care of its customers. A fire once damaged one plant and threatened production of a customer’s order, so Packaging Specialties sent the order to another plant, which worked overtime to cover.

“We try to outdo everybody and anybody,” said Biggs, whose son is a third-generation employee. “We get a lot of referrals from the business that we do with our customers.”

Manufacturing is the roller-coaster ride of the American economy, but Biggs and Nichols said that diversification has insulated Packaging Specialties to some degree. Biggs said his dad, who died in August 2003, understood that people would always need to eat and drink, which is why he thought a film printing business for poultry and bottled water was a pretty safe bet.

“It was a leap of faith,” Scott Biggs said. “He could see there was a need for this type of packaging that we do, the specialty-type packaging. It has grown into a lot of things that we did not expect.”

Check Title at Door

Biggs said that when the economy was tough a few years ago, the Georgia plant experienced a decline in orders. He said the standard business practice during such downtimes is to cut expenses through employees and then rehire when the economy picks back up.

That wasn’t an option at Packaging Specialties, Biggs said. Biggs said the company struggled through and kept its employees aboard.

“They knew what kind of company they worked for,” Biggs said. “The secret to our success is we are a Christian-based company that believes in the grace of God and all that he provides. We’ve never wavered from that no matter what. We have also been blessed with some great people. They love what they’re doing.”

The hardest question to ask a Packaging Specialties executive is his or her job title. The company tries hard to avoid titles and just concentrate on every worker handling his or her responsibility.

“I’m Scott; I work here,” Biggs said. “We do what we have to do to make sure our customers have everything that they need.”

Nichols said everyone is on a first-name basis at the plant, whether it is Scott Biggs or CEO Robert Farrell — Hays Biggs’ son-in-law — or Kaaren Biggs, Hays’ widow and the chairman of the company.

“When you walk in the door, everybody goes by their first names,” Nichols said. “There are no sirs and no ma’ams, no nothings. It’s very low key; look at my attire.

“People come in here and can’t get over how happy everybody is. Everybody is polite, everybody is this and everybody is that. Everybody ribs each other. It’s a trickle-down from Kaaren and Robert and Scott.”

Nichols and Scott Biggs said that, as a private company, Packaging Specialties doesn’t have pressure from shareholders or other outside groups. It’s all about working together to serve the customer, period.

“We like being under the radar,” Biggs said. “It’s still just growing and growing. The future for the company is still very, very, very bright and gets brighter every year.”

Send this to a friend