Northern Plastics owner eyes expansion

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  • Glen Hufstetler at Northern Plastics in eastern Kalispell on Sept. 27. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    A detail of one of the protective plastic pieces Northern Plastics makes a lot of. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Jason Boudreaux, front, trains Steve Belstad on the use of the 400 ton press at Northern Plastics on Thursday, September 27, in Kalispell.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • Glen Hufstetler at Northern Plastics in eastern Kalispell on Sept. 27. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    A detail of one of the protective plastic pieces Northern Plastics makes a lot of. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 2

    Jason Boudreaux, front, trains Steve Belstad on the use of the 400 ton press at Northern Plastics on Thursday, September 27, in Kalispell.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Businessman Glen Hufstetler wades calmly into adversity — or so it seems — fortified by at least two sources of strength.

First, Hufstetler and adversity became well-acquainted through the years. Today, at the age of 84, the Utah native, widower, onetime rancher and former U.S. Army Ranger seems nearly unflappable.

Northern Plastics, the Evergreen-based business he founded in 1992, recently acquired a machine roughly equivalent in size and shape to half a boxcar. Hufstetler had hoped it would help his injection-molding business fulfill the demands of a potentially lucrative contract to supply thousands upon thousands of plastic covers for water meters.

Hufstetler said he discovered, however, that the hulking machine’s capabilities had been misrepresented. He said it also needed parts that would not be readily available. On Thursday, he described plans to travel to Salt Lake City to inspect another machine.

“I’m not going to whine about getting taken on this one,” Hufstetler said. “I don’t want to lose that contract, so I have to do what I have to do. I’ll figure out a way.”

And then he corrected himself, referencing another key source of strength: Jesus Christ.

“We’ll figure it out. Me and my friend,” Hufstetler said, smiling.

Northern Plastics operates out of a nondescript building off Montana 35.

The company’s products range from covers for water meters to bear-resistant food containers to a host of other plastic creations.

Northern Plastics has 13 employees, including LeAnn Meadows, shop foreman.

It’s clear that Meadows provides for Hufstetler another source of strength.

“She’s like one of my kids,” he said. “She’s smart. She’s very mechanical. She’s outspoken. She calls a spade a spade. She’s been a real blessing to me.”

Son Mark Hufstetler, up from Utah Thursday for a visit, described his father as tenacious.

“He just stays focused on what has to be done,” he said. “To stay and compete in the world economy in the U.S. today is super tough.”

Hufstetler’s focus now is the promising contract for water-meter covers. He said he anticipates Northern Plastics will have to work around the clock six days a week for about two years to supply all the lids specified. He’s planning to add on to the building and will likely add workers.

One topic Hufstetler approaches with a mix of reticence and reluctance is his service as an Army Ranger. During one covert mission, after parachuting from a plane, he collided on the ground with a farm tractor, severely injuring his right arm.

He said he continued on his mission and by its end the flesh on the arm was beginning to rot. Ultimately, he lost one of the two bones in his forearm.

Hufstetler encountered another round of adversity when his wife of nearly 60 years, Sharon, died in 2016 at age 77 after a prolonged illness. They had four children.

“She was the most beautiful little thing,” Hufstetler said.

Asked about retirement, he shook his head.

“What would I do? I don’t care much for TV. I’m afraid that if I stop, I’ll stop. But I don’t want to be here if I’m not capable of being here. I’m pretty honest with myself that way.”

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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