RICHMOND, VA. - In the very old city of Richmond sits a very futuristic-looking building. Rising from what was once a rolling landscape, it's big, it's impressive - and it's pink. ``You can't miss it,'' Neil Drozeski, president of America Filtrona Corp., said of the company's leased headquarters.
In the historic heart of Tobacco Land, Filtrona makes fiber products such as cigarette filters. But the company also is building a future for itself in plastics.
The extruder has its fingers in some newfangled products, creating about 300 new plastic sheet and profile products each year for existing markets, which include aircraft, medical, packaging, lighting fixtures, sign and display, electronics and recreational equipment applications. Filtrona has grown aggressively by expansion and acquisition. The company even may make a move into injection molding, Drozeski said.
``This is a fun business to be in,'' he said. ``We see plastics going into more markets all the time, from computers to air bags. It's not like our opportunities are stagnant. We just have to be smart enough to take advantage of them.''
Sitting in a conference room, at a conference table, with the obligatory big plant in the corner, Drozeski doesn't look like he's having fun. But what's behind that door over there?
It's the equivalent of the American Filtrona toy box, and Drozeski is willing to share his toys.
``This is for the Olympics,'' he said, holding up a tube in which Bausch & Lomb will package Ray-Ban sunglasses for the sporting crowd in Atlanta next year. ``And this profile is for a display rack.
``Here's some medical tubing,'' he said, digging deeper into a big box behind a bunch of shelves in the back room. Now he looks like he's having fun.
The company makes parts for everything from incubators to funeral caskets. It makes more than 1,000 components, using 100 different dies, for Boeing Co. alone, including trim for overhead bins and profiles for track lighting and seating. Filtrona's products mainly are made of clear acrylic, general-purpose polystyrene and glycol-modified PET.
Filtrona operates seven plastics companies with eight facilities (see map).
Drozeski unabashedly talks of ex-pansion.
``We are actively looking at other ac-quisitions. They could be in tubing or medical - a new type of tubing we're not a big player in now. Or another company in Chicago could be folded into
Porth [Plastic Co.],'' he said.
``We might look at injection molding. Five years ago, we would have said definitely not. But we're thinking more about it.''
Filtrona has been unable to find a company to buy in the Dallas or Oklahoma City areas, which would give it better access to customers in the Central Southwest.
``And we must have looked at half a dozen companies in Southern California,'' he said. ``We couldn't find an extruder we were comfortable with that wanted to be acquired.''
What it cannot buy, however, it will gain through internal expansion.
``More than half our growth will come from within,'' mostly in profiles, Drozeski said. ``We're not going to acquire an extrusion company just to buy its customer base. We're getting good coverage now.''
Filtrona invested $9.7 million to expand existing plastics operations last year. About $5 million of that went to Filpac, which added 40,000 square feet of space, a second eight-color flexographic printing press and a second extrusion lamination line.
Filtrona also bought a 61,000-square-foot building adjacent to Porth and a 41/2-inch sheet line for Southern Plastics. In the past 18 months, Filtrona has purchased 14 new extruders, from piggybacks to the 41/2-inch model. That gives the firm more than 80 extruders.
Drozeski said the company is seeking to expand its secondary services, which now include ultrasonic welding, drilling, routing, custom cutting and packaging.
``The more secondary opera-tions we can do, the happier we are,'' he said.
The company employs about 740 in plastics. That segment reported 1994 sales of $93.3 million - up 17 percent from the year before - and profit of $8.4 million, up 16 percent.
Overall, Filtrona reported 1994 sales of $149.2 million and employs 1,100. The firm was 32nd in Plastics News' sales-based ranking of North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders, published in June, and 123rd in the September ranking of film and sheet manufacturers.