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Businessmen start firm to make envelopes

ROARING SPRING — Rob Herman and Bob Paltrow say they have returned to their roots.

Both have been involved in the envelope manufacturing industry for many years. The men, longtime partners in North American Communications, recently opened Allegheny Envelope in a former Spring Cove Container warehouse in Roaring Spring.

“We are back to our roots. This is not about self-promotion, it is about how the community made it possible to start it here to take advantage of the resources available. The most important resource is the people, that was the heart of the envelope business,” Herman said.

Paltrow, who had founded NAC with Herman’s father, Michael, in 1979, said he had retired about eight years ago.

“Rob came up with the idea of starting an envelope company again; it was like back to the future. He explained it to me, and I said, ‘OK lets do it,'” Paltrow said.

Paltrow said it took about $500,000 to get the new business up and running.

“We are a startup, self-financed. We are running on our internal cash, money we put up,” Paltrow said. “Rob took a raw warehouse and made it into a factory from scratch that is a manufacturing company today.”

The Roaring Spring area was a perfect place to start the business.

“All of the supplies are here. In our tiny county, there are more people with envelope experience here than in any county and maybe the world. This is the perfect place to start again,” Paltrow said.

“We started with an idea. All of the right people were here,” Herman said. “I feel like I’m carrying on family tradition. A lot of these guys are in their 40s, 50s and 60s and have tremendous knowledge. They are so happy to be engaging in their craft. We look at them as craftsmen. We will develop the next generation of envelope adjusters.”

Allegheny Envelope started production in January 2021 with one envelope machine. In April, a second machine was added.

“We spent several months of growing the industry and focused on customer service,” Paltrow said.

This month a third machine was added with a fourth expected sometime this year.

“In a year we went from three people to about 25. When we get the fourth machine, we will add another 10 to 12 people. We will keep on growing and growing because our potential sales far exceeds our capacity,” Paltrow said. “We made 5 million envelopes in January 2021, made 35 million in December 2021. We expect in the next few months to make 50 million a month.”

Herman and Paltrow said they have received support from other local businesses, such as American Eagle Paper Mills of Tyrone and NPC Inc. of Claysburg.

American Eagle Paper Mills supplied paper to make the envelopes.

“I was excited when Rob called saying he was opening Allegheny Envelope. With our mill’s focus on recycled paper, and freight increasingly expensive, nothing is better than working with local customers. It’s great to see the exponential growth Rob and Bob have had in their business. It says a tremendous a lot about their business and their confidence in our local labor market,” said Philip Devorris, president/CEO of the Blair Companies who served as interim president of American Eagle Paper Mills from December 2018 to April 2020.

“Without Phil’s support, we would not be here,” Paltrow said.

NPC Inc. of Claysburg, has been a tremendous customer supporting growth, Paltrow said.

“They provide us with a quality product and do so in a timely manner. We prefer to do business locally as much as possible. When you buy locally, it just seems easier to build sound collaborative relationships that work to the benefit of both parties and the community,” said NPC Inc. owner and CEO Mark Barnhart.

Nittany Industries Inc., of Tyrone has also been supportive.

“Nittany Industries has established itself in a few niche markets. We do a little of what Allegheny is doing, but not a whole lot. We have actually subcontracted a couple of these jobs out to them as we would rather do the envelopes that we are better suited for,” said General Manager Mark Frankenhouser.

“Rob and Bob have borrowed materials and parts to get started. I know that I’ve given Rob a lot of advice also that seems to be helping him grow their business. With things the way they are right now in the labor market and paper market, just staying above water in the black for a new business is a very impressive feat.”

Both Herman and Paltrow are excited about the possibilities for their business.

“Our dream is two-fold, to build a business and create jobs in the community,” Herman said.

Impediments to growing are not sales. “There is more sales potential than capacity. What will hurt growth will be the speed in which we can find excellent people, but there is a steady supply of excellent people here in spite of a labor shortage,” Paltrow said.

“We work with the customer to design envelopes that will run through their equipment. We customize each envelope to give them the greatest amount of production,” Herman said

Paltrow said, “The amount of competition today is drastically less than 20 years ago. Some of the companies went away. Only one company has started up in the last 20 years, and we are it.”

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