By: Catherine Kavanaugh
September 5, 2013
Like a bumper crop of corn, Litchfield, Minn.-based GVL Polymers Inc. is growing again — both physically and in terms of its bottom line, which has more than doubled in the last four years to surpass $5 million in revenue.
The privately held rotational molder, which was founded in 1993 by a farmer who developed a poly-blend corn snout to reduce cob loss during harvesting, is building a new facility in Hesston, Kan.
Construction begins this month on a 50,875-square-foot plant, which is expected to open by March 1 and create 50 jobs in the next five years.
President and CEO Allan Cronen said $650,000 of financial incentives and proximity to agriculture manufacturers like Agco Corp., Excel Industries and Great Plains Manufacturing Inc. made Hesston a good choice for GVL Poly’s second plant.
“They’re not our customers yet but we’re in the process,” Cronen said in a telephone interview. “We’re building the pool and jumping in before the water is in.”
GVL Poly will lease the Hesston plant. The project represents a $4.6 million to $6 million capital investment.
Corn snouts are long, pointed parts that extend from the front of a harvesting combine to separate and guide the stalks of corn into the machine. GVL claims to produce about 50 percent of the corn snouts made in North America. The proprietary product will be made in Hesston along with fuel tanks, diesel tanks, water and chemical tanks and other hoppers for the agricultural industry.
While the company stays true to its farming roots, it also provides rotomolding, assembly, product design, 3-D printing, and tool-building services for industrial and commercial applications. Products include roof vents, fan enclosures, shrouds and prototypes.
In Litchfield, GVL has 47 employees and rotates more than 300 toolings between three machines, producing anywhere from 10 to 10,000 polyethylene pieces annually for customers in 27 countries.
“We’re running considerably over capacity at our plant,” Cronen said. “We’ve added on to it three times in the last four years and now we’re at 51,000-square feet.”
The former bank executive purchased the company in 2002 when it was strictly a corn snout manufacturer. Borrowing a concept from the finance sector, he started to “reset” GVL Poly as a full-service company. The firm’s founder, Von Grotto, and others have invested about $2.5 million in Cronen’s vision in the last three years.
“We got more involved in tool building. We added assembly and fabrication to our list. Then, we added the product development and design team. We really expanded our offerings. We’re a very different company from what we were even three years ago,” Cronen said.
The financial books show it, too. In 2009, GVL was what Cronen describes as a “sub $2 million company” in terms of annual revenue. He projects revenue will surpass $5 million this year.
“The thing that is pretty unique for us is we’re still a fairly small rotational molder but we really poured in the capital,” Cronen said, referring to the recent installation of a Ferry 400, a dry-blending station and what he called the largest 3-D format printer on the market.
Last year GVL printed all the components of a new corn header for DragoTec USA Inc. except for the frame.
“We were able to introduce the product nine months later,” Cronen said. “A whole new corn header with a lot of technology changes and improvements from the old model was in the field harvesting corn last fall.”
GVL Poly marked its 20th anniversary Sept. 3.
“Von Grotto’s farm is about two miles north of us,” Cronen said. “They’re still involved and I think they’re every excited about what we’re doing and what we’ve made the company.”