Economic Impact

“I Love Seeing Ideas Come to Life.”

Tamara Smith always had a passion for figuring out how things work. She knew she wanted to explore a career path that allowed her to see tangible results, and the plastics industry turned out to be a perfect fit.

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“In this industry, you can find what you love and really develop within a role that aligns with that—you never know where it might take you,” Tamara said.

After completing a few internships in engineering during college, Tamara joined the workforce at Printpack, a family-owned company. ​​Printpack is a major converter of flexible and specialty rigid packaging with a history of innovation that dates back more than sixty years and manufacturing plants throughout the United States, Mexico and China.

“Some people think of jobs in manufacturing as being strictly on an assembly line,” Tamara said. “There are so many different roles in manufacturing, including sales, finance, engineering, product development, production, maintenance, marketing, shipping, warehouse, human resources and more.”

She said she enjoyed seeing machine makers coming up with ways to improve the manufacturing process, such as new automation opportunities that greatly increase efficiency. For her, it’s fun to see these ideas go from concepts to reality.

Tamara currently works in the Rigid Plastics business unit, with a focus on shelf-stable food packaging.

A friend was recently in the hospital for back surgery, and after coming home, she talked to me about the importance of the work I do. She hadn’t really thought about food packaging until she was only able to eat cups of apple sauce during her recovery.

The work Printpack does to improve sustainability inspires Tamara, she said. The staff works with customers to commercialize more recyclable structures and materials that work best. Tamara also contributes to waste-reducing initiatives on the production floor.

“It goes beyond the doors of Printpack,” she said. “We make products with recyclable structures, and we help to make sure consumers are also recycling.”

Printpack worked with local county officials in Virginia to expand recycling capacity to include polypropylene. It’s a commonly recycled material, but James City County had not previously recycled it. James City County now has the capability to recycle this material, which has allowed for more food packaging to be recycled.

“I recently learned that the largest source of waste entering municipal landfills is from food, not from packaging,” Tamara said. “While we focus on making our packaging more sustainable, it’s important that we all work together to eliminate all sources of waste.”

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