Pharmaceutical company moving headquarters to St. RoseLEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / March 17, 1999ST. ROSE – Once it was the world’s largest producer of kitchen matches,but since the old Universal Match Corp. shut its doors almost 10 years ago,the building has stood derelict.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 1999

No more.

Penner & Welsch Inc. broke ground Monday afternoon for PWI’s renovationof one of the two metal warehouse-type buildings on River Road into a 35,500-square-foot office/warehouse facility. The company will movefrom its present headquarters in Kenner.

Contractor Brian Gibbs Corp. expects the $1.2 million construction projectto be completed by early fall.

St. Charles Parish director of economic development Corey Faucheux saidthe company will contribute up to $3 million in economic benefits to the area.

“They’re taking an eyesore and putting it back into commerce,” Faucheux said. “It’ll be a real nice eye-catcher.”Penner & Welsch Inc. is a full-line pharmaceutical wholesaler, servingindependent pharmacies across the country. In 1998, their outside salesforce and telemarketers combined for $45 million in business.

PWI president Gregory Johns commented: “Pharmaceuticals remain a strong industry, and specialists predict that by 2005, four billion prescriptions will be filled annually, an increase of 40 percent since 1998. Penner & Welsch Inc. is positioning itself to fulfill more of thoseneeds by this expansion.”PWI vice-president Eddie Gammon estimated the company ships out approximately 15 million pills per month.

Current payroll is around $1 million for the 55 employees. As productlines and sales are expected to increase, more hiring is contemplated and, according to Faucheux, will be between 75 and 90 employees within two years.

For 40 years, Universal Match produced up to 100 million kitchen matches and pocket stick matches each day at the 37-acre site. PWI bought 7.5acres of that site for $1.133 million.Faucheux called the project a major success for the community. “Thecompany doubled in size in the last year and a half,” he said.

He added, “Not only are they bringing employment opportunities and tax revenues, they are renovating a facility that has been out of commerce for almost 10 years.”PWI also plans to construct a mini-business park at the rear of the property to further develop the area. During December and January, Sak andPak, a plastic bag distributor, and Creative Fabricators, a packaging products manufacturer, moved into the western buildings of Universal Match. About six months ago, Faucheux related, he began working withJohns to promote the purchase of the eastern portion of the site.

The man-made lake at the rear of the site, used by Universal Match for fire protection, will be used for a walking path for the PWI employees’ wellness program.

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