Lehigh Technologies LLC, a company founded to make high-end polymeric powders from 100 percent recycled content, has raised more than $8 million in its second round of private-venture funding.
With the funding, Lehigh's executives anticipate beginning limited production of their PolyDyne and PolyFlow fine and ultrafine elastomeric powders at their Tucker, Ga., production facility by September.
When finished, the 85,000-square-foot plant will have four cryogenic processing lines that will produce about 85 million pounds of powders annually.
Gulfshore Ventures, a Naples, Fla.-based affiliate of Florida Gulfshore Capital, led the funding drive with the help of management and investors. Richard Molloy, managing partner of Gulfshore Ventures, will become a Lehigh director.
Lehigh is moving its headquarters from New York to Naples, and all its executives will relocate there.
Lehigh's founders include:
* Dennis J. Gormley, chairman, president and chief executive officer, who is the former chairman, president and CEO of Federal-Mogul Corp.
* Anthony Cialone, chief operating officer, co-developer of Lehigh's patented technology and proprietary manufacturing process.
* James B. Gray, vice president of sales and marketing, who is a former managing director of Tenneco Automotive Europe and former president of Clevite Elastomers Inc.
Cialone said he has been developing and fine-tuning Lehigh's technology and processes for the past five years, based on an important realization.
``So many of the attempts to develop businesses in the recycling market were based on the idea to do something with waste rubber, rather than looking at the customer end and asking what customers wanted,'' he said. ``We tried to do some reverse engineering, building a system based on customers and their economics, not disposal fees.''
Gormley heard about Cialone's work, liked what he heard, and contacted him. ``Tony and I got together and started talking,'' Gormley said. ``Once I started investigating it, it didn't take too long to get excited about it, and we started to put together a business.''
That was in 2003. Gormley and Cialone spent the next 15 months visiting potential customers and gauging their interest, according to Cialone.
``There's no sense starting a business unless there's a market,'' he said. ``And, if there is a market, do the economics make sense?''
PolyDyne and PolyFlow powders come in particles ranging from 80-300 mesh. Consistency of particle size is the hallmark of Lehigh's technology, ensuring smooth processing, according to Cialone.
``When you specify particle size, it needs to be very precise, and we can guarantee it at least 99 percent of the time,'' he said.
PolyDyne and PolyFlow powders have applications as modifiers for rigid plastics, plus in tires, molded rubber goods, paints, adhesives and coatings.
Lehigh now has about 15 customers in the tire and molded goods businesses.