By Rich Figel
One of the Job Quest job fair stories that didn't make it into this month's Career Changers TV show is posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which has now topped 180,000 total views and averages more than 28,000 views per month. But many of our business-oriented stories fly under the radar and don't get much attention because they don't have a built-in following from social media or they shy away from publicity.
Such was the case with Rengo Packaging. Never heard of them? Neither did I, so when I spotted their booth at Job Quest, I went over to investigate who they were and what type of jobs they were looking to fill. Turns out this was the company that sprung up after Weyerhaeuser closed the Honolulu box plant in 2008... well, actually, there were some important interim steps along the way. First, 13 former Weyerhaeuser employees formed Hawaii Box and Packaging to act as a distributor, but weren't producing the boxes locally. Then in 2011, they were acquired by Rengo, the largest corrugated box manufacturer in Asia. Rengo decided to build a new plant on Oahu that was scheduled to open this month and start making boxes by June 1. Here's the link to the video segment. They are looking to hire 30 to 40 new employees -- no small thing in Hawaii's job market.
The reason I took a personal interest in their story was back in 2008 I was deeply involved in the beach access movement because some residents in Kailua put up a locked gate on a "private" beachside lane that neighbors had been using for years to get to the beach. I met Scott Werny, who was the Surfrider Oahu co-chair at the time, and he helped me organize the statewide Groundhog Day rallies that generated a good deal of media attention for the cause. His day job was being a packaging engineer at Weyerhaeuser -- which fascinated me since you don't often think about what goes into designing something as simple as a box. Yet there's a myriad of factors that a designer has to take into account for each product.
After Scott got word the old W plant was closing shop, he told me about the small group that was going to form their own company to continue as a distributor. But he acknowledged it was risky, and it was no sure thing they would succeed. A few months later, Scott was hit with more unexpected bad news. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Friends rallied to support the young father of two kids, yet he asked us to make donations to the National Parkinson Foundation on his behalf instead of focusing attention on him. That's the kind of person Scott is.
It had been a couple years since I last spoke to him, so I asked Rengo's Operations Manager Glenn Masaki if Scott was still working for them. Yes, he said. Scott is their one and only packaging designer, and his Parkinson's is under control. Later, I caught up with him on the phone and he sounded great. His personal life was in transition again (divorce, moving to a new place) while his professional life is doing well now that Rengo has given them the capital and resources to build their new plant at Campbell Industrial Park with about 4 acres under roof.
So, next time you get a pizza delivered or buy a box of locally-made candy, chances are Scott and his co-workers at Rengo were the folks who are responsible for the packaging. It's a testament to the resilience of hard-working people in Hawaii, who didn't give up when a big company decided to pull up stakes... or when personal challenges confronted them. If you would like to make a donation on Scott's behalf, here's the link to the National Parkinson Foundation site. Progress has been made in treating the disease, but there is still no cure.
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