CHICAGO — As it builds its European empire, General Polymers isn't forgetting to take care of business in its own back yard.
The Dublin, Ohio, resin distribution giant, which serves 26 major resin suppliers, has been on a major buying spree in Europe since late 1996. But back home in the states, GP, a division of Ashland Chemical Co., has opened a regional office and distribution center in Indianapolis and is establishing an administrative office in Milwaukee.
The Indianapolis venture, which opened in January, marks GP's first U.S. expansion in at least three years, Tom Maconachy, regional director for the central United States and Canada, said at Plastics USA, held Oct. 6-8 in Chicago.
The Indianapolis site includes a 65,000-square-foot warehouse, while the Milwaukee region could be receiving a similar warehouse in the next two to three years.
Indiana and Kentucky will be served from the Indianapolis office. Indiana was served from offices in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. The Milwaukee region was covered by GP's Chicago-area office in Franklin Park, Ill.
``The Chicago office had grown so large that it was strangling growth in Chicago,'' Maconachy said. ``It was too much for one manager. How many key customers can you visit? We weren't spending enough time with customers who should be important customers.''
And like other major distributors, such as Polymerland and M.A. Hanna Co., General Polymers has felt the crunch as resin prices have plummeted in 1998.
``As the middle guy, distributors are kind of in a unique position — we're kind of in a buffer zone,'' Maconachy said. ``We don't see the price extremes in either direction.
``It's had a tough effect on us as far as sales growth is concerned,'' he added. ``We achieved our growth goals in volume with a 12 percent increase, but we fell short on sales because of the drops in resin prices.''
Like many hopeful resin firms, GP officials think the end of the resin pricing slump is in sight.
``It's a buyer's market right now, but it can't be a buyer's market for too long or it starts to hurt everybody,'' Maconachy said. ``I think processors are starting to realize that.''