Martin Grohman is seeking controlled growth for his composite decking company.
After kicking up production in 1999 as Correct Building Products LLC with two extrusion lines, the firm has added two lines since the beginning of the year and is up to 22 employees from an original two.
``We were kind of watching the history of some competitors,'' Grohman said by telephone June 5. ``It's easy to get a couple of lines going. It's tempting to add lots of lines, but once you do that, you've got to make more money each month to pay your bills. We're not a big company, so we can't spread ourselves too thin. We try to let the product speak for itself and focus within the Atlantic Northeast.''
But Grohman and business partner Mike Hurkes expect results from their approach: This year, they're predicting $10 million in sales, up from $3.5 million last year. The Biddeford, Maine, firm extrudes polypropylene and sawdust for decking profiles. It also is expanding its custom profile offerings for windows and doors.
``We're trying to expand that business because it's a nice offset for the decking business,'' Grohman said. The firm touts the stiffness and heat-deflection properties of PP. ``That gives us some opportunity to create profiles that are closer to wood,'' he said.
Hurkes and Grohman had been co-workers at Cincinnati Milacron in Batavia, Ohio, before starting Correct in 1999. They had first-year sales of $75,000, carving Correct's niche as regionally focused with an upper-end product. The company sells its product through specialty lumber stores.
``It's coming strong,'' Grohman said. ``When I say controlled growth and throw out numbers like that, it sounds silly. But we get very good output by debottlenecking vs. just output by adding more machines. A lot of our increased output has come from productivity gains, debottlenecking and automation. I think it's reasonable for us to grow that way.''
But Grohman cautioned that composite decking is not a panacea for plastics in the construction industry. ``It's harder than it looks,'' he said. ``For my background in extrusion, I thought there would be nothing to this. But the handling of sawdust is very difficult. It's a bear, and it can be expensive to do.''
People are not willing to admit the industry faces stiff competition from exotic woods like mahogany, he said. ``It's like any other industry where you have to make sure you're the low-cost producer. It's very competitive. We're all duking it out for market share.''