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Nu-Pak sells majority interest to D.C. firm

BOSCOBEL - Boscobel’s largest employer—Nu-Pak, LLC—informed its workers on Sept. 23 that three days earlier it had sold a majority share of both Nu-Pak and Prairie Industries to the Halifax Group.

Owners Jim Hutchison and Jeff Panka said that despite the sale, the approximately 900 jobs involved at Nu-Pak and Prairie Industries are secure and operations are expected to remain the same at Boscobel’s Nu-Pak facilities, as well as the four Prairie Industries locations, three in Prairie du Chien and one in Lansing, Iowa.

According to their website, “The Halifax Group is a private investment firm dedicated to partnering with founders and managers of lower middle-market businesses with total enterprise values generally between $50 million and $300 million.” The company has 100 years of combined experience and $1.5 billion under management.

“Over the past year, Jim Hutchison and I have been exploring options that would allow Jim who is turning 65 this year to begin phasing out of the business,” Nu-Pak President Jeff Panka wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to employees. “We started out by looking at ways that would allow me to take over ownership but quickly understood that we have all created something bigger than I personally could take on from a financial perspective. Thus, we began exploring opportunities to partner with other interested in investing in the contract manufacturing and packaging business.”

Panka said he and Hutchison identified eight potential partners, interviewed all eight, and “The Halifax Group from Washington D.C. emerged as the clear leader when considering business philosophies and objectives focusing our teams as the core to grow from.”

The Halifax Group purchased the majority share of NPPI (Nu-Pak, Prairie Industries) on Sept. 20 and is now the holding company that will support the growth of NPPI.

“Jim Hutchison and I have both maintained investment in the new entities and will be members of the Board of Directors,” Panka wrote. “We expect little change from a daily business perspective. All staff and positions within the organization will remain the same including benefits, vacation and wages. The important thing for everyone to understand is that all jobs are secure and day to day operations remain the same.”

A celebration lunch was held last Tuesday, Oct. 1, on Hutchison’s 65thbirthday, and it was a memorable one for both he and his employees.

“I’m giving every employee a $250 bonus,” Hutchison said, and after a pause added, “for every year of service.”

According to employees who were there, an audible gasp could be heard in the room, followed by a lot of smiling faces.

For several employees who had been with the company since it opened in Prairie du Chien in 1994, that meant a bonus of $6,250.

Hutchison began Prairie Industries with a workforce of eight who manually inspected packaging and provided sorting services to 3M Company. Today, it is one of the largest employers in Prairie du Chien with a core workforce of about 350 employees between three plants. 

Prairie Industries specializes in contract packaging and converting services including blister packaging, retail display assembly, mixing/bottling liquids and various other packaging services. They service seven different divisions of 3M globally in addition to numerous other customers.  

Prairie Industries acquired Nu-Pak, a food packaging facility, in 1998. Today, Nu-Pak is Boscobel’s largest employer, with 450 employees.