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Published: Tuesday, 7/14/2009

Honored Dundee business little known at home

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

DUNDEE, Mich. - It is a small, beige-sided ranch house in Monroe County's Dundee Township.

It also apparently is the operations hub of one of the nation's 500 largest Hispanic-owned businesses.

Hispanic Business magazine lists Milagro Packaging LLC in Dundee as the nation's 228th largest Hispanic-owned business, down from No. 197 last year. Milagro has 150 employees and $23.4 million in sales annually, the magazine said.

Company Web sites list 1585 Wells Road in Dundee as its headquarters. No one answered the door when a reporter visited Friday. The house was unmarked, except for a sign showing it to be a family residence.

Milagro's annual registration statement filed Feb. 25 with the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth gives the Dundee location as its mailing address and a second location, in adjacent Lenawee County, as the site of the firm's registered office in Michigan.

But the second address, along a gravel road in a remote area of Riga is a two-story, aluminum-sided house that doubles as the location of a business called Powerhouse K-9 Dog Training. There were no signs for Milagro Packaging. No one answered the door Friday afternoon. County records list it as a residential structure owned by Henry Rodriguez, Jr. Milagro has no other operations in the area.

This house in Dundee is listed on Milagro Packaging LLC Web sites as the company s headquarters.
This house in Dundee is listed on Milagro Packaging LLC Web sites as the company s headquarters.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

People in 6,300-resident Dundee Township are unfamiliar with the firm, which would be among its largest corporations.

"I've never heard of it," said Patrick Burtch, manager of the village of Dundee. "Nobody on my staff has heard of it."

"It sounds familiar," said Joanna Uhl, supervisor of Dundee Township. But she knew nothing else about the company.

Contacted on her mobile phone, Dolores Rodriguez, president and founder, was vague about where the firm has its headquarters.

She said that the Dundee address listed for the company is actually her home.

"That's all my mail," she said. "We used to have a facility in New Boston, Mich. We had to close it because of the economy. I moved everything to my home."

Michigan records on file in Lansing show that since its inception Milagro has listed the Riga and Dundee addresses.

Ms. Rodriguez said she works from home and from Milagro Packaging plants in Kentucky and South Carolina.

She formed Milagro in 2001 as a joint venture with Concept Packaging Group in Inman, S.C. after meeting officials of the company at a business conference sponsored by Toyota Motors, Hispanic Business reported. She owns 51 percent of the firm, with the remainder held by Concept Packaging.

In 2006, Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Ky. named Milagro among its top 10 suppliers. Milagro feeds not only the Japanese car-maker's assembly plant there but four other Toyota facilities, according to a news release issued by the car company.

Milagro's Web site states that it has manufacturing and warehouse operations in Georgetown, Inman, S.C., and 13 other cities. But telephone directory sites show no Milagro operations in those cities. However, they do show that Concept Packaging Group has operations in each place.

Ms. Rodriguez earlier said Milagro makes and distributes products from Concept Packaging plants and warehouses. She said each firm leases separate space at the locations.

She couldn't be reached for further comment yesterday.

An executive of Concept Packaging also couldn't be reached.

Concept Packaging of Inman, S.C., and Milagro make much of Milagro's minority-owned status.

Visitors who click on "diversity" on Concept's Web site are taken to a page that pictures Ms. Rodriguez, describes Milagro, and gives the Dundee address and the number for Ms. Rodriguez's Monroe County mobile phone.

Under the headline "Diverse Solutions for a Diverse World" and text that trumpets the firm as a "Minority Business Enterprise," Milagro's Web site instructs potential customers to contact the firm through Ms. Rodriguez at the Dundee address.

Minority-owned status can be beneficial for firms, because government agencies and most major corporations have supplier diversity programs, said Tony Rodriguez, a consultant in West Hartford, Conn., who advises firms on such programs.

Businesses typically set a goal of hiring minority-owned firms for 5 to 10 percent of supply contracts, said Mr. Rodriguez (no relation to Dolores Rodriguez).

Ms. Rodriguez, who grew up in Riga, told The Blade that she worked as a buyer in the packaging industry before hooking up with Concept Packaging.

"We pay attention to detail and inevitably save our customers money," Ms. Rodriguez, then 55, told Hispanic Business in 2007.

"As minorities, we are underrepresented in the field, we know that we must dazzle our customers. Our goal is to overwhelm the competition through customer amazement. " The Hispanic Business story described Milagro as a Dundee company.

Concept Packaging employs 350 people at 13 facilities in the Midwest and Southeast, according to its Web site.

It was opened in 1983, and also operates as Southland Container Corp., according to the business directory manta.com. The firm produces corrugated boxes and other types of packing material in plastic, foam, metal, and wood.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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