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Berry/Kerr has cause to celebrate

AHOSKIE – The hardworking people of Ahoskie’s Berry/Kerr Plant have achieved a significant milestone.

The plant operated one million hours without a lost workday due to an injury. Berry/Kerr held a celebration Thursday afternoon thanking their employees for this major accomplishment.

&uot;This is a great accomplishment and very important to the people who work here,&uot; said Donna Veale, a human resource employee who has worked at the plant for 18 years.

&uot;It is an absolute fact something like this doesn’t just happen,&uot; said David Hepburn, the plant manager. &uot;We have a great work force here who really look out for each other. Safety is our number one priority and this is a huge piece of teamwork.&uot;

&uot;There are 270,000 businesses in North Carolina and only 88 other businesses accomplished this honor,&uot; Hepburn continued. &uot;Only ten of those business are manufacturing plants.&uot;

Hepburn presented an impressive collection of awards from the North Carolina Department of Labor and letters from Governor Mike Easley, United States Senators Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole and North Carolina State Senator Robert Holloman.

Burr is scheduled to visit and tour the plant in September.

&uot;This is officially Berry/Kerr Day,&uot; Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn proclaimed.

Dennis Deloatch, Superintendent of Hertford County Schools, and Hertford County Commissioner Curtis Freeman also attended the celebration.

Rueben Clayton, a representative from the office of United States Congressman G.K. Butterfield, attended the celebration and praised the Berry/Kerr employees for their hard work.

A television crew from WITN-7 covered the event.

&uot;We are truly excited to have Ahoskie on board,&uot; said Berry’s Vice President of Safety, Greg Jones. &uot;I couldn’t believe it when I heard that this plant lost no time to an injury for one million hours. There is a culture of safety at this plant and I am very honored to be here.&uot;

Jones attended the celebration along with several others from Berry’s corporate headquarters.

&uot;This is a major accomplishment,&uot; said Erwin Askew, of Powellsville. &uot;I have worked here for two years as a CPS (Cell Production Support). You have to stay alert, know your job and look out for others.&uot;

&uot;This is a blessing,&uot; added Linda Walton, who has worked at the plant for eight years and works in quality control.

&uot;Working with plastics that reach high temperatures can be dangerous work,&uot; added Betty Applewhite, a Cell Production Operator and a 16-year veteran.

&uot;Great teams cause great things to happen,&uot; added Patty Argent, Human Resources Manager.

The celebration included lunch, a lively game of bingo and several activities for employees’ children, including a clown painting faces, a climbing wall and a giant inflated slide.

Berry Plastics Corporation acquired the Kerr Group and its Ahoskie plant in June.

The Ahoskie plant has been in operation for 19 years and employs 157 people.

&uot;This is the first Berry plant to achieve this milestone,&uot; Hepburn said.

Berry Plastics Corporation is a leading innovator, manufacturer and marketer of injection-molded and thermoformed plastic open-top containers, aerosol overcaps, closures, drink cups, and housewares.

The company is headquartered in Evansville, In. and has plants located throughout the United States and the world.

The Ahoskie plant produces plastic closures for the pharmaceutical industry.

&uot;Ahoskie is a friendly place and I am glad to be here,&uot; added Hepburn, a native of Scotland. &uot;We are looking to a possible expansion of the plant and I can’t think of a better place to be.&uot;