New Process Fibre - A Family Affair in Sussex County

Owner Carl Peters stands in the main press room at the Greenwood plant.

New Process Fibre Co. in Greenwood is a family affair. It always has been. Carl Peters, the company’s CEO, said his earliest memory is of him spending time with his grandfather at the family business on First Street. As a preschooler, he had no idea that he would one day be CEO of the company. Decades later, Peters oversees a team of 70 employees at his sprawling manufacturing plant in Sussex County.

The production floors around the plant are noisy. There’s activity everywhere. Employees are busy manning dozens of huge press machines, making parts for a variety of products you probably use every day. “There’s a lot of things we make that are kind of interesting. A lot of it is just everyday stuff. I guarantee you in your house somewhere there is an appliance, there is a power tool, there’s something else that’s got one of our parts in it somewhere,” said Peters. 

Do you own power tools? How about a vacuum cleaner? New Process Fibre manufactures small parts for all of these household items. The versatile business also produces parts for airplanes, cars, air conditioners, dishwashers, blenders, freezers, circuit breakers and many other appliances. New Process Fibre touches millions of people every day and Peters said many Greenwood residents don’t even know the plant is right in their own backyard. The company was founded by Peters’ grandfather, F. Carl Porter, in 1927. He felt he’d developed an improved, “new process” for making vulcanized fibre. Vulcanized fibre was, at that time, the primary material used for electrical insulating parts, and, although still in use, has been largely replaced by plastics. The company struggled through the Depression and it was years before it became more profitable during World War II. 

Peters’ father, Henry, took the company over after Porter’s death in 1962, vastly expanding the business. According to Peters, “My dad came from Germany, but only had a 6th-grade education. He had a great work ethic, though. He came here, married my mom, they took it over and he built the business from nothing. What you see today is really the result of what he did more than what my grandfather did. He did it by the sweat of his brow.”

Peters started helping his father at the plant when he was 12 and has watched the business mature and grow. While the future of any enterprise is uncertain, Peters thinks he has an idea about where his industry is heading. “I think there’s going to come a time where 3D printers get to the point where they can make 1 million washers in a half-hour. Maybe not in my lifetime, but you know it is going to expand beyond what we ever imagined. And when that happens, when it’s cheaper to 3D print a million washers than to stamp them, nobody is going to have punch presses anymore.”

Until then, New Process Fibre is expected to remain a family business. Peters and his sister, Christine, own the company and his brother-in-law, William Rust was plant manager for years, and is currently the sales manager. Peters’ son and nephew also work for the business and are expected to eventually lead the company and its dedicated workforce with the values and integrity that have served it well for nearly 100 years.