Milwaukee Manufacturer's Owners Give Company To Employees

The owners of a Milwaukee-based paper machine manufacturer have delighted their employees by handing them the keys to the 65-year-old company through an employee stock ownership plan.

Mnet 172811 Paper Machinery Corp Logo

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The owners of a Milwaukee-based paper machine manufacturer have delighted their employees by handing them the keys to the 65-year-old company through an employee stock ownership plan.

Paper Machinery Corp. owners Donald and John Baumgartner, who are father and son, made the announcement Monday at an employee meeting in front of the company headquarters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Since workers didn't know what to expect at the meeting, some of them were worried Paper Machinery was being sold to another company.

"I would have to say there was a lot of anxiety. But I would be willing to bet now that everybody's elated," said Greg Winn from Menomonee Falls, a tooling designer who's worked at the company for 36 years. "We were really floored and pleasantly surprised."

Under the employee stock ownership plan, the eligible Paper Machinery employees will earn shares of the company's stock over time, in addition to their existing retirement benefits. The plan could eventually put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the retirement accounts of some longtime workers.

"The transition to employee ownership will ensure that Paper Machinery Corporation's legacy will continue right here in Milwaukee for generations to come," said Donald Baumgartner

In order for the employee owners to realize the maximum benefits, the company will have to remain profitable and meet its goals.

Some production employees could retire with more than a million dollars, according to attorney Steve Barth, who's representing the company in the transaction.

Paper Machinery, which makes machines used to produce cups and containers for brands such as McDonald's and Starbucks, employs about 250 people and posts more than $100 million in annual revenue.

"This is a family business. Our employees are our family, making a transition to an employee-owned company is a natural fit," said John Baumgartner.

The Baumgartners will benefit from the sale of the shares to the employee stock ownership plan, but not nearly as much as they would've if they sold Paper Machinery to another buyer. They will continue to serve on the company's board of directors.

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