ST. LOUIS - When Alpha Plastics Inc. president David Spence talks turkey these days, he's talking Turkey. The 37-year-old executive of the St. Louis blow-molding company also is addressing the business world as owner of the Rutledge Group, which he started about 18 months ago. His part-time interest in this undertaking has turned into a full-time job involved in consulting, brokerage of injection blow molding equipment, design and turnkey operations for international joint ventures.
Spence's Rutledge Group is about to embark on its first international joint venture with a Turkish tubemaker looking to enter the bottle-making industry. Spence's part of the venture will be to supply expertise in blow molding bottles and to keep tabs on industry trends.
``Whenever [companies overseas] need machinery, I hope to be involved. I have 11 years of R&D here [at Alpha Plastics] and can transport that technology internationally,'' he said.
The venture, which is expected to start up by Jan. 1, will focus primarily on the pharmaceutical market, he said. First-year sales are projected to be about $1.5 million, and $5 million to $8 million within a couple of years, he said.
Spence, who bought Alpha Plastics in 1985, traveled to Istanbul in September to meet with seven potential customers of the venture company. He will not reveal company investors until paperwork is completed.
``I felt comfortable with the customers and I liked the opportunity,'' he said. ``It also is a chance for me to diversify.''
Spence said he sees a growing Turkish pharmaceutical market. Industrially, however, Turkey is years behind the United States, he said.
``Internationally, it's intriguing. In some aspects it's a virgin market,'' he said.
But Spence, who splits his work time with Alpha Plastics, said the blow molder continues to post strong sales after its reorganization in 1993.
When Spence took control in 1985, the company recorded sales of about a half million dollars. Alpha purchased new equipment and moved from a 100-year-old building to a 65,000-square-foot facility.
Sales climbed to about $11 million in 1994 and are 36 percent higher this year by concentrating on vitamin and pharmaceutical bottle markets, de-emphasizing its commodity bottle business, he said. All this was accomplished despite an unstable polyethylene market.
``Polyethylene prices are beginning to decline, and we're starting to feel more comfortable,'' he said. ``It's been very volatile the last few months.''
He also credits Alpha Plastics' growth to the management team of Dan Creston and Mike DeFazio, who were promoted to vice president and general manager, and director of operations, respectively.
The 100-employee, 10-machine plant manufactures 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Employee incentives, communication and a profit-sharing program also helped improve production, he said.