Pick A Platform
How often does the average person buy a container of horseradish? It was the consideration of this question that led Mark Graham, an insurance salesman from South Dakota pursuing the dream of personal business ownership, to opt in 1976 to purchase Bell Paper Box Company instead of a local horseradish farm that was also for sale. While Graham may have opted not to pursue the expanse of a farming operation, significant growth would prove to be in the cards for his chosen venture.
Fast forward nearly 35 years later, and Sioux Falls-based Bell Incorporated is flourishing as one of the ten largest independent folding carton manufacturers in the United States. Mark Graham retired from the business in 2010, assuming the role of chairman, and handed over day-to-day leadership responsibilities to his son Ben, now president and CEO, and son-in-law Ben Arndt, now executive vice president and COO. Ben Graham assumed his leadership role after 17 years of varied operational positions including vice president of finance, sales, and supply chain, while Arndt joined the company in 2005 and previously served as vice president of operations. Mark Graham's tenacious focus on growth is at the root of Bell Incorporated's consistent upward gains today—even in the current climate of struggle for many converters.
Ben Graham relates that Bell started out as a "run-of-the-mill regional producer of sheetfed cartons"—essentially one of the many smaller carton shops populating the marketplace in the mid-1970s. However, it gradually built up growth momentum under his father's guiding philosophy that "you can't be a low-cost seller unless you are a low-cost producer." Graham says the continued tweaking of his father's low-cost seller/producer strategy has been vital to the company's development into one of the largest independent carton producers in the United States.
Currently, Bell Incorporated's carton converting operations in Sioux Falls includes two production facilities—one for offset printing and one for flexo printing—that add up to 500,000 square feet of plant space, and host just shy of 300 employees, along with a combined equipment corps of five printing presses. A new Sioux Falls-based 64,000-sq.-ft. distribution center that opened in July 2011 increased Bell's warehousing space by 40 percent. With its facilities situated at the intersection of interstates 29 and 90, a junction which Graham describes as "the dead center of the country," Bell is able to provide two-day delivery to any U.S. destination.