Nestlé Purina in Allentown, PA is commonly recognized by the red water tower with the checkboard, visible from the Pennsylvania Turnpike and home to the production of pet food brands line ALPO since 1936. Jim W. and Jim K. have also called our facility home for nearly 50 years. With plans to retire in the coming year, Jim W. and Jim K. reflect on a life-long career.
With the workforce changing, it’s a rarity among the next generation to retire from the organization in which you began your career. Jim W., Central Stores Attendant and Jim K., Processing Line Operator, reflect on their parents who, too, build a livelihood at one company. “We don’t have many people that come and leave, which is good,” said Winston Silva, the plant manager since May 2017.
Something else both men have in common is a commitment to serving our country. After starting at Nestlé Purina, Jim W. was drafted into the Marine Corps in 1969, spending a portion of his service in Japan working in motor pool ordering parts for military vehicles—much like the work he still does today. Jim K. spent 3 years in the U.S. Army, 22 months of which he was in Germany. He returned as an Operator in can manufacturing.
Both Jim and Jim have witnessed Allentown grow and evolve over the years. The facility now produces brands like Friskies, Pro Plan and Mighty Dog, in addition to their flagship brand, ALPO. They also recall the acquisition by Nestlé and a visit from then U.S. President, Barak Obama. Thinking back to the start of his career, Jim W. recalls questioning if he was going to make it in manufacturing, recalling the physical demands of the jobs in the 1970s. “I saw these blocks of meat, and they were heavier than me,” recalls Jim W., who weighed about 135 pounds back then.
With the Jims’ retirement, Allentown won’t lose any steam; this year the facility will complete a 2-year expansion in South Whitehall to boost production and create new jobs in the Lehigh Valley. Machines now do the heavy lifting and computers help run the machinery, boosting efficiency and safety, mentions Jim K.
Both men agree they want to stay active after retirement. Jim K. plans to take up fishing again and caring for his son. Jim W. knew the time had come to retire after a friend and relative passed. He plans to spend his time working on cars or at his family farm.