Quintec Films Corp. makes no bones about its rural heritage or its relatively small size compared to some of its film peers. The Shelbyville company has a statue of a golden retriever guarding its front lobby, reminding visitors that its owners like to get away to hunt in Middle Tennessee whenever possible.
On a recent visit, an actual retriever, owned by one of the company principals, wandered the hallways.
Quintec's owners - including President Terry Jones and Vice President Marty Leonard - have no desire to build a major corporation. The company cherishes the flexibility that comes with its small size.
Quintec has 18 employees and makes about 18 million pounds of stretch film a year.
Yet, on the other hand, Quintec Films has made some bold moves in the film industry, typical of its entrepreneurial spirit. When it started, Quintec launched what it considers one of the first seven-layer, five-extruder cast film lines and created a patented blend of materials for its stretch film.
The moves are paying off. Quintec is preparing to order its second seven-layer film line within the next month, an investment of more than $3 million. It has found new applications in stretch film for medical uses, for the overwrap of bakery goods and for form-fill-seal applications.
The company's sales have jumped from about $7.8 million in 1999 to close to double that this year. But Quintec sticks to its entrepreneurial guns, even while attempting to compete against the industry grizzlies.
``We like the entrepreneurial side better,'' Jones said in an Aug. 26 interview at the Quintec facility. ``It's fun and challenging. I wouldn't be content to be directed by a larger corporation or to report as a [company] profit center. I'd rather put up with the risks and rewards of ownership myself.''
The company's start was not quite so easy. Jones' father, Jerry, formed Co-Ex Plastics in 1984 in Lewisburg, Tenn. The company later was bought by Huntsman Packaging Corp., which became Schaumburg, Ill.-based Pliant Corp.
When Terry Jones decided to leave Huntsman after managing operations in Lewisburg, he was reluctant to start his own film company. His father still worked as plant manager in Lewisburg.
``I didn't want to leave the area, but I didn't want to compete against my father,'' Jones said. ``I had locked myself in.''
He waited until the elder Jones retired. Then, about a year later, Leonard, who had been stretch film business manager with Huntsman, joined Jones in the venture.
The newly formed company also had to settle a lawsuit with Huntsman, which had alleged that Quintec was using Huntsman's trade secrets. The suit was settled out of court, with an independent expert reviewing formulations during Quintec's first year of operations.
``I think we proved that we had no problem,'' Jones said. ``We were paving the way, and that made a splash.''
The company, working with some other former Huntsman employees, devised stretch film from a blend of linear low density polyethylene. The company's seven-layer extruder, purchased from Black Clawson Converting Machinery Inc., gained some notice for its uniqueness.
Even Black Clawson officials were a little skeptical that more than five layers were needed, Jones said. The company started development work on a variety of different resins and tried various processes on the new machine, he said.
It began making higher-performance, specialty films that met individual applications, instead of taking a high-volume, mass-market approach, Leonard said. ``We had to be different,'' he said. ``That was how we were going to succeed.''
Since then, other film makers have bought seven-layer extruders. Quintec continues to hold two patents on its technology - with the first hanging on a wall of a conference room in a frame plated in gold - and has been looking for applications beyond what others are offering.
The company is bucking several multilayer trends. First, it has veered away from the use of metallocene catalysts in its materials. Instead, it uses barrier layers to provide special properties, Jones said.
And while several others, including Pliant, focus on thinner films to make pallet wrap, Quintec prefers the standard, 80-gauge thicknesses, he said. Using a thinner-gauge film slows down production time and causes the machines to go through more revolutions, he maintained. Higher production costs eat up any savings from using less material, he said.
And while Quintec is focusing some of its stretch film on the wrapping of pallets, it does much more. New applications include the sheathing of infrared thermometer probes for medical and pharmaceutical uses and the wrapping of hamburger buns at bakeries for commercial and institutional uses.
It has developed a sealing layer that is used as a form-fill-seal application for frozen meats and dry goods. The company also has patented a special cling material.
A Tennessee institution, Jack Daniel's of Lynchburg, Tenn., has come calling, using Quintec's stretch film to wrap its whiskey, Leonard said. Murray lawn mowers, also made in Tennessee, use Quintec's wrap, too, he said.
``We feel like we're in the center of the country, and we have 24 states within 500 miles of Tennessee,'' Leonard said. ``We can ship our film easily to anyone in about two-thirds of the United States.''
The company expanded its plant in 2001, adding 30,000 square feet and more warehouse space.
The company plans to add eight to 12 employees when the new extrusion line is ready next spring, Jones said.
Jones sees the film industry in black-and-white terms. You can be a big company and focus on being a low-cost producer. Or you can be a smaller guy that focuses more on performance films that serve market niches. That is where Quintec's bread is buttered.
``Our priority is performance films, higher-end films,'' Jones said. ``We can do that and still be competitive.''