Lehigh Valley Plastics President Shelly McWilliams Interviewed by LVEDC
By Colin McEvoy on October 7, 2021
Shelly McWilliams grew up working in a manufacturing plant for her family’s building supply business, and it was in those early childhood days that she realized she wanted to work in a leadership role in the manufacturing sector when she grew older.
“I just loved it,” she said. “I loved that we were building something that was going into people’s homes or into the movie theater up the road or whatever. It was kind of what I always wanted to do; it always made me feel like I was at home.”
Today, McWilliams is the President of Lehigh Valley Plastics, a state-of-the-art machine shop, fabricator and distributor of advanced plastic components and materials, making the custom-sized precision parts that go into everything from electronics to construction equipment.
McWilliams was the interview subject in the latest entry in a weekly series the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is conducting with new corporate leaders with some of Lehigh Valley’s leading companies and largest employers. New videos are released each Thursday at 11 a.m. on LVEDC’s Facebook page.
“We began this series back after March of 2020 during the pandemic to allow folks here in the Lehigh Valley to meet new leaders at a time when we could not get together,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham, who conducted the interview. “We had so much viewership of that series and we’ve had so many additional new executives coming in that we’ve continued it. We look forward to soon being able to get together in person.”
The next interview on Oct. 14 will feature Julien Sauvagnargues, President of Olympus Corporation of the Americas.
The full video interview with McWilliams can be viewed below. Current and previous archived videos can be found here and on LVEDC’s YouTube channel.
McWilliams became President of Lehigh Valley Plastics in June 2020. The company was founded in 1971 and employs 102 people. Previously located at several sites in Allentown, in 2007 it consolidated its locations and moved into a 59,000 square-foot facility in Bethlehem Township.
“There are quite a few metal machine shops that also do plastics,” she said. “Where we specialize is in some of those really tight-tolerance, intricate pieces where you have to really understand how the plastic will behave in the machine in order to make it work right. Even in the county, there’s only a few companies like us who really understand that and do that well.”
McWilliams previously worked as an executive for two global business units at Brooks Instrument, and before that had a 10-year career with Air Products. She has a degree from Bucknell University and an MBA from The University of Virginia.
“When I had the opportunity to come back and actually work in the Lehigh Valley again, I was ecstatic because I love it here and I was so happy to be back here; to be part of the community, and to be able to become really reingrain locally,” she said. “It really couldn’t have gone better for me.”
Among the topics discussed in the interview were how the pandemic affected the company, recent investments in robotics and high-technology machinery, establishing pipelines with regional trade schools, and emerging trends in her industry.
“What we’ve seen a lot of lately is a conversion of people who were using metals before, but due to a lot of the environmental concerns are trying to lessen the weights of different things, so they are using less fuels and burning less fossil fuels in operating those products,” she said. “So we’re seeing a lot of conversions from metals to plastic parts to lessen weights.”
In addition to Sauvagnargues, other upcoming interviews in the video series will include Gunnar Brunius, Vice President & General Manager Lehigh Valley Operations of Mack Trucks; Rick Bucher, Chief Executive Officer of Victaulic; and Sarah Santos, President of Cigars International.
Past interview subjects in the new series have included Steph Raymond, President of PPL Electric Utilities, and Angelo Valletta, President & CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. LVEDC had also launched an initial series of 10 video interviews in the fall of 2020.
Sponsors for the series include presenting sponsor Lehigh Valley Health Network; premier sponsor Capital BlueCross; gold sponsor Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba; event sponsors Boyle Construction, Klunk & Millan Advertising, Olympus Corporation of the Americas, interview sponsor Victaulic, and production sponsor Countess Communications.
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