Since acquiring toll compounder Chemtrusion Inc. almost three years ago, Scott Owens has continued to expand the business and now is considering a third location for the Houston-based firm.
"We're not looking at any specific facilities," Owens said. "But we're trying to decide if there are certain things we could do with another location."
Owens and several family members bought Chemtrusion - which has sites in Houston and Jeffersonville, Ind. - from publicly held InterSystems Inc. for $2.7 million in late 2001.
The sale was affected by an unusual agreement under which Houston-based Mytex Polymers - a major Chemtrusion customer - had the right to terminate its contract if Owens left the firm.
Buying the company "was a tough thing to do, but I did it because our future was uncertain," Owens said. "This group of people had been together for a long time and I didn't want that to come to an end."
Owens had helped launch the business as a unit of Bamberger Polymers Inc. in 1987. Five other managers have been with the firm since 1988. In Jeffersonville, six site managers have been there since the plant opened in 1996.
Mytex, a joint venture between ExxonMobil Chemical Co. and Japan PolyChem Corp., consumes the entire output of the Jeffersonville plant, which makes polypropylene-based thermoplastic polyolefins. In Houston, Chemtrusion compounds PP and polyethylene for a number of resin makers.
Chemtrusion makes filled and color compounds and alloys. Recently it has done an increased amount of work in reactive compounds, where additives are introduced at different points in the twin-screw extrusion process to create different qualities in its compounds.
"Compounds are a lot more specialized than they were before," Owens said. "Now, they're more fully robust and more developed for specific applications. There's less emphasis on generic grades."
Chemtrusion remains heavily involved in advances in twin-screw technology.
"We're routinely working with and pushing vendors like Conair, Coperion, K-Tron and Gail to create new technology," Owens said. "We can envision a lot of things we can do with twin-screw extrusion to change our future."
Chemtrusion also recently installed new granulators and pelletizers for its compounding operations. In 2001, Chemtrusion reported sales of $10 million and annual capacity of 125 million pounds. Owens said each of those numbers has increased since he purchased the company, but he declined to provide updated totals.
Owens said the current economic climate might make resin makers more inclined to work with tolling firms rather than invest in their own compounding capacity.