They call themselves foamies.
Pat Culpepper and Richard Wilson say they're helping to create the next generation of vinyl siding.
Taking an ``Intel Inside'' approach to marketing, the two plastics industry veterans are teaming up with the largest names in vinyl siding, including Crane Performance Siding in Columbus, Ohio; Resource Materials Corp. in Toledo, Ohio; and Macedonia, Ohio-based Norandex/Reynolds Distribution Co., under the Owens Corning umbrella. Most recently, the men's company, Progressive Foam Technologies Inc., announced a partnership with Heartland Building Products Inc. in Booneville, Miss.
Culpepper expects to announce more partnerships in the next few months.
``Vinyl siding is not that cheap product on your house,'' Culpepper said. ``I do believe we have created a new category of high-performance siding product that really does meet the competitive challenge of fiber cement, head on.''
Here's what they do: Between two factories in Beach City, Ohio, Culpepper and Wilson lead a 90-employee team that processes expanded polystyrene and adheres it to vinyl siding profiles. They began operating in 1992. In 2002, sales reached $13.5 million and officials expect to reach nearly $20 million in 2003.
Now, they're also expanding the facilities in Beach City: Within the past 10 months, they've built and purchased $1.8 million worth of machinery.
They've added 30,000 square feet and are planning to add 30,000 more.
The process creates vinyl siding that is resistant to mold and termites and touts increased energy savings.
``We're not interested in getting other foam guys to start salivating over what we're doing,'' Culpepper said in a recent interview. ``I think we can safely say that this product category started at zero in 1992 and this business [was] about 500,000 squares in 2002. It's growing, and I don't really want to quantify that growth.''
Culpepper has spent his life in the plastics industry. His father, Bertram Culpepper, operated Expanded Plastics Inc. in Fenton, Mich. There, they began adhering EPS to aluminum siding.
``We have set out to create a different business model,'' Pat Culpepper said of his current business.
``We want to be the foam experts. Now people can't get in our nest because they don't understand what we're doing,'' he added.
The vast majority of their product is block molded and wire fabricated. They also work with contract manufacturers in Salt Lake City
``That will be changing in the future,'' Culpepper said. ``We do a small percentage of shape molding.''
That's not the future of it, though. It's just a niche product they make for another manufacturer, Alside Inc. in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
``We get along very nicely with other foam guys because we don't get in their back yard and they don't get in ours,'' Culpepper said. ``Our business model is just so different from the rest of the industry that only a portion of what we're supplying to our customer is foam. It's the product development, the process development, the market development, the lead generation, all those things are bundled together.''
So, was it ever an option for Progressive to extrude its own vinyl profiles?
``That is certainly something we could have done,'' he said. ``It was a decision that we had to make: Either we are going to become an ally of 15 companies and go to market and partner with them, or we're going to become a competitor of 15 companies.
``The day we put an extruder in here and begin making our own vinyl and begin taking it to market under our own label, we will become a competitor to every other vinyl company out there.''