By Shelby Mertens, The Progress-Index
HOPEWELL — A $10 million global strapping company has come full circle as it returns to the home of its humble beginnings.
Landen Strapping Corp., a family-run business that tailors strapping systems for meat and seafood packaging, hardwood flooring, tobacco, textiles and U.S. Mail applications, is based in Prince George County. Company personnel and city officials cut the ribbon on the new Hopewell facility on July 30.
The company started in Hopewell over 35 years ago under the name Continental Engineering by Carl Carden Sr. His sons are now carrying out their father’s vision for his strapping business. Back in 1978, the company had a small office in downtown Hopewell.
“Thank you, first of all, for coming to see a dream that came true that started in Hopewell back in 1978 over on Meadow Street,” said Carl Carden Jr., president of Landen Strapping Corp. “This was a vision of a tool maker that was struggling to feed his family.”
Carl and his two brothers, Chris Carden and Vincent Carden, took the reigns of the company in 2000. Their goal: to take the company to the global level, and they succeeded. Landen Strapping provides companies with strapping equipment in places like Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Tanzania, Africa. Landen Strapping’s satellite locations span from Georgia and Arkansas to Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Hopewell facility is located in the old National Guard armory building off South 6th Avenue and will employ 14 people.
“We’re just tickled to have them here and see this wonderful building repurposed and present some tax dollars to the city at the same time,” said City Manager Mark Haley.
Haley and Assistant City Manager Charles Dane helped facilitate the deal as part of the city’s efforts to revitalize business and industry in Hopewell.
The company will continue its operations in Prince George as well. That facility has five employees. But Landen Strapping plans to continue growing in the community.
“This was an expansion that was needed and we hope that we’ll expand again,” Carl said.
Landen Strapping provides strapping materials for companies like Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and the chicken that ends up between the buns of a Chick-fil-a sandwich.
“Most of it comes through these machines so think about that next time you go (to Chick-fil-a),” Vincent, national service manager of Landen Strapping, said jokingly.
The strapping plastic, small and easily breakable as it may look, is actually stronger than it seems.
“The plastic wrapping itself, for the tobacco industry is a 550-pound break that has about a 4 percent stretch on it to accommodate the tobacco coming out,” Vincent said. “With the 550-pound break, you’ll get upwards of 1,100 pounds of strength in the box.”
incent then explained that a box with four straps would then have 4,000 pounds holding a 400-pound bundle.
“So that way the box goes through shipping from the United States to overseas and there’s no chance of it coming loose,” he said.
The blue strap used for the tobacco cases is made from a polypropylene-based product. For the lumber industry, the company uses a polyester-based strap that has an 850-pound break.
Landen Strapping transports its equipment, such as the tobacco case strapper and the leg quarter strapper, to companies all over the world and trains its personnel how to use them properly.
“But the real curious thing is one week I was in a 4 degree freezer and two weeks later it was 130 degrees in Dubai,” Vincent said.
Vincent was an apprentice at the Newport News shipyard like his father some 40 years prior to learn the skills of machinery. He took over the engineering part of the company once his father retired.
“When our father retired, we needed someone to cut metal and that’s where I came in,” he said. “I left Thomas Dale High School across the river and instead of going to college like everybody else, I went to trade school because I’d seen what he was able to do here and he just passed the torch to me on the engineering side.”
Vincent estimates the company will sell 250 to 300 units a year from the Hopewell facility.
The Carden brothers, who grew up in Hopewell, are happy to be back in their hometown.
“We grew up here, we feel comfortable here, we feel right at home,” Carl said. “I tell you it turned out better than what I thought it would be.”