Former Schulman executive launches Altera

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Compounding veteran Barry Rhodes has returned to the industry with Altera Polymers LLC, a new business in Seneca, S.C.

Rhodes ended a 24-year career with A. Schulman Inc. in early 2008. His non-compete agreement with Schulman expired at the end of 2010, and Altera opened its doors shortly afterward.

In a Jan. 26 phone interview, Rhodes said the firm should be making commercial amounts of material by the end of February on two twin-screw extrusion lines with total annual capacity of 20 million pounds. Altera's product mix primarily will consist of polyolefin-based compounds, with some based on engineering resins as well.

“We'll be doing polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate and, maybe later on, some nylon,” said Rhodes, who is Altera's president and sole owner.

The firm's compounds will be sold in impact-modified, glass-filled and mineral-filled grades. Target markets include lawn and garden, including lawn mower parts, as well as recreational and a small amount of automotive.

Altera is based in a 75,000-square-foot space in a larger industrial building that had been vacant since 2006. Altera is leasing the space from the city of Seneca, which now owns the building. Rhodes said additional space is available in the building, and he hopes to add more compounding lines in the future.

Altera expects to employ 20-25 by the end of the year. Within five years, the firm should have 75 employees, Rhodes said.

Total investment over that five-year period is expected to be around $4 million. Altera also has received a $1 million federal stimulus loan through the Appalachian Development Corp., based in Greenville, S.C.

Rhodes selected South Carolina because of its strategic location near prospective customers.

“We're going to have a customer-focused strategy and provide an alternative to the traditional compounders in the market,” he said.

Ultimately, the decision to return to compounding was not a hard one for Rhodes to make. “I spent a lot of time in this industry. This is what I know,” he said.

Before he left Schulman in April 2008, Rhodes was executive vice president and chief operating officer for the firm's North American unit.