For injection molder Green Leaf Inc. of Fontanet, the formula for success is simple: If the company wants to grow, its products have to help crops grow.
About two-thirds of Green Leaf's business comes from the agricultural market, where the firm makes nozzle fittings, spray tip filters, ball valves and other parts used in fuel-flow systems on farm machinery. The parts deliver water, insecticides and fertilizers on farms nationwide.
``Farming really has two cycles,'' Green Leaf founder and President Mike Goda said during a recent interview in Fontanet. ``When farmers aren't making money, they're repairing their old equipment and not buying new machines. At that point, it's slow for [original equipment manufacturers] like John Deere, but better for retailers who supply parts.
``Then when things pick up and farmers buy new machines, OEM demand is up and retail slows,'' Goda added. ``We supply both sides of the market.''
With 65 employees and 22 injection presses with clamping forces of 6-500 tons, Green Leaf can crank out up to 160,000 parts each day for OEMs like Deere & Co. and retailers like Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Tractor Supply. Most of Green Leaf's agricultural products are made from nylon or polypropylene and range from half an inch to 3 inches in length.
The firm made it through a tough year in 2001, as sales dropped about 15 percent to $5 million. Orders have rebounded thus far in 2002 and have Goda expecting sales as high as $7 million by the end of the year.
The rocky environment has not stopped Green Leaf from growing. The firm has added six pieces of robotic equipment in the past year and plans to add six more pieces by the end of 2002. Plans to add a 40,000-square-foot building have been completed, but no final construction date has been tabbed.
Goda admits he ``had no intention of being a molder'' when he left agricultural supplier Terra Products in nearby Crawfordsville to launch Green Leaf in 1979. He started with four employees, fabricating and assembling the Rope Wick, a herbicide-applying device that was being promoted by chemicals maker Monsanto Inc. at the time.
As demand picked up, the firm took some molding in-house and became a full-fledged molder in 1981. The business grew from there and now operates 60,000 square feet of manufacturing space spread out over half a dozen buildings. Green Leaf is in the process of relocating its offices to the manufacturing site from space in a former church about half a mile away.
Outside of agricultural products, Goda has high hopes for the Wonder Winder, an extension- cord storage unit consisting of a hand crank connected to a 1-pound ABS housing and cord net. The product - which Green Leaf commercialized in 1987 after buying the idea from a local inventor - will be available in Sam's Club stores in June.
Over the years, Green Leaf also has dabbled in products ranging from automotive steering column parts for TRW Inc. to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning parts for United Technologies Corp. Green Leaf's 1994 purchases of A-Plus Molding - a six-machine shop in Edinburgh, Ind., that was moved to Fontanet in 1996 - brought production of polystyrene wastebaskets and tissue box covers for various hotel chains. At one point Green Leaf even made glow-in-the-dark wastebaskets that were sold at Wal-Mart stores.
A Fontanet native, Goda now owns the largest employer in the town of 202, located about 15 miles northeast of Terre Haute. Goda said he's ``commited to the local community'' and plans to keep Green Leaf a family affair, with five relatives currently on the payroll.
Goda's brother Dave is a production engineer for the firm, while his brother Steve is Green Leaf's vice president of personnel. His nephew Chad is plant manager and another nephew and niece both work in marketing.
To top it off, Goda's son Pete will join the company in an administrative post when he graduates from Indiana State University later this month.
``Sometimes having family work with you pays off, and sometimes it doesn't,'' Mike Goda said. ``But for us it's worked really well.''