ARCHIVED  January 1, 1998

Goldco seeks broader niche

Goldco seeks broader niche

Luanne Kadlub

Business Report Correspondent

Kent Campbell laughs and tells people, "no," when they ask if he works for a jewelry company. But what Goldco Industries Inc. does make requires just as much finesse — though it˜s bulkier in size.Campbell, senior vice president, oversees the Loveland operations of Goldco Industries Inc., a worldwide leader in the manufacture of palletizing, depalletizing and conveying applications for a variety of food and beverage companies. The company is now taking this technology and looking at how it can be applied in other industries.
In a nutshell, palletizers are machines that can move cans, bottles (both glass and plastic) and other items from the manufacturing line to pallets for shipment. Each system includes custom-designed options and is manufactured to customers˜ specifications and requirements.
Depalletizers do just the opposite, unloading cans, bottles or other items and putting them back on the line. Goldco˜s line of conveyance systems is used to help move those products along the production line. Also manufactured at Goldco is equipment that encases the pallet in protective stretch wrap.
Goldco˜s customer list reads like an international Who˜s Who and includes Adolph Coors Co., Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. and PepsiCo Inc. in the United States. In fact, more than 80 percent of the 80 billion beverage cans made annually in the United States go through Goldco equipment.
Goldco is owned solely by Richard Vander Meer, who started his business in Golden in 1971 with just nine years˜ experience working for the Busse Brothers in Randolph, Wis., and Alpine-Western in Golden. Alpine, a subsidiary of Ball Metal Container Group, manufactured machinery for the can industry.
When Ball phased out that aspect of its business, Vander Meer decided to go into business for himself manufacturing palletizers. In 1971, he purchased Goldco Welding and reorganized the business as Goldco Industries Inc.
In his first year, he employed seven workers and sold one palletizer. To keep the business afloat , Vander Meer took on a variety of ornamental iron work, from spiral staircases to installing a steel passageway under Interstate 25 and Broadway in Denver.
As business prospered — in part thanks to the advancement of air conveyance for handling containers — Vander Meer added buildings to his business site at 44th Avenue. Eventually, the business outgrew its space.
"With the cost of acquiring real estate and all of the county regulations for building new operations, we found that the atmosphere in the Loveland area was a lot more conducive to constructing a new plant," said Dick Kifer, secretary-treasurer of Goldco International, the holding company, and assistant secretary-treasurer of Goldco Industries.
The company purchased property near Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport, and two buildings, totaling 100,000 square feet, were constructed. In 1995, that was increased to 136,000 square feet.
The company, what Campbell calls a "full-loop operation," meaning everything from engineering to shipping is handled at the Loveland site, employs 200 people and operates two shifts. Initially, about 80 percent of the work force chose to relocate to Loveland or commute from Denver. Kifer said that has since changed, and now no more than 20 of those employees remain on the payroll.
The company has had its periods of downsizing and upsizing, depending on the number of orders received. This summer, the company downsized when orders weren˜t there. Then in September, the company was "scrounging up old employees and new ones," Kifer said. "Our problem is to smooth out production to tie in with customers˜ requirements. We don˜t build for stock."
Kifer conceded that it˜s a difficult situation for employees. "We run into this problem every few years. It˜s hard to predict. It˜s tied into economic conditions," he said.
Sixty-five percent of all orders come from other countries, and Third World countries are emerging as a substantial market for Goldco. A typical order takes six to 10 weeks to manufacture, Campbell said. Substantial orders can take up to 14 weeks or more.
The process includes manufacturing the equipment, erecting it and putting it through test runs using the product it is intended for. When the customer signs off on the order, Goldco deconstructs the palletizer or conveying system and crates it for shipping, either by truck or boat.
"Up until the last 10 years, there was rapid growth in the brewing and soft-drink industries, demanding larger volumes of cans and bottles. What has happened overseas is that emerging Third World companies, where this was done manually, are now seeing the advantages of doing it with automation," Kifer said.
Goldco˜s equipment has been engineered to handle up to 6,000 cans per minute, up from 600 cans per minute 15 to 20 years ago.
In November, the company was working on two large installations for a Russian client. Kifer also noted that Brazil has been one of Goldco˜s larger customers of late. Australia, China, Mexico, Canada and England are included among the 52 countries with which Goldco has done business.
The driving force behind the company, both Kifer and Campbell said, is Richard Vander Meer. "He is a true entrepreneur, the most significant factor in the development of the company," Kifer explained. "Whatever it takes to get the job done, he˜ do."
Oftentimes, that means traveling the globe time and again to meet with prospective and current customers.
"He˜s doing more now than in recent years," Kifer said. "He˜s a perpetual motion machine. It seems like he won˜t slow down."
Goldco recently acquired a similar business in Appleton, Wis., and is now building a new plant that should be in operation by spring. Called Goldco Kinetic, the plant will employ about 25 people and will be involved in materials handling — the palletizing of products outside of cans and bottles.
"This is a field being tapped for the first time," Kifer said.
Publishing companies, for example, represent a big opportunity, as do high-volume print shops that produce manuals and other publications en masse for large companies.
Goldco also operates plants in Menasha, Wis., and Lancashire, England, and maintains a foreign sales staff.
Goldco˜s presence in Loveland has been a boost to both the type of employment offered in the area and to McKee Medical Center in the form of support from the company and owners through the hospital˜s foundation.
"Goldco really brings diversity of employment to this community," said Don Churchwell, executive director of the Loveland Economic Development Council. "It˜s manufacturing, but of a different nature."
Goldco˜s employees range from welders to painters to engineers. The fact that Goldco does more than two-thirds of its business outside of the United States also benefits Loveland in that "it brings wealth to the community from outside of Loveland and outside of the country," Churchwell said.
Churchwell also said that competition for the company is minimal in the United States, which benefits employees and the community alike.
"They don˜t have someone coming in and low-balling their prices and running them out of business," he said.
Barbara Kiepert, executive director of the McKee Medical Center Foundation, said Goldco and Richard and Diane Vander Meer, who have made Loveland their home, have been "very big supporters to the McKee Foundation."

Goldco seeks broader niche

Luanne Kadlub

Business Report Correspondent

Kent Campbell laughs and tells people, "no," when they ask if he works for a jewelry company. But what Goldco Industries Inc. does make requires just as much finesse — though it˜s bulkier in size.Campbell, senior vice president, oversees the Loveland operations of Goldco Industries Inc., a worldwide leader in the manufacture of palletizing, depalletizing and conveying applications for a variety of food and beverage companies. The company is now taking this technology and looking at how it can be applied in other industries.
In a nutshell, palletizers are machines that can move cans,…

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