Georgia and China are thousands of miles apart, but both places are fueling growth for concentrate maker Americhem Inc.
In Georgia, Cuyahoga Falls-based Americhem has purchased Color and Additive Technologies (CAT) Inc. of Dalton. Five-year-old CAT makes color and additive concentrates for the fibers and films markets. CAT President Russ Neuman will remain with Americhem. No purchase price was disclosed.
``We've always been strong in fibers and the related film market and this is a way to build on that,'' said David Bouton, Americhem's commercial vice president.
CAT operates a 90,000-square-foot plant and employs 45. Americhem will close a smaller CAT plant in Dalton and consolidate work into the larger CAT site by mid-2006. Americhem acquired the other site when it bought Extruded Colors Inc. in 2002.
Americhem President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Juve said his firm is not actively looking for more acquisitions in North America, but would consider deals that provided ``a strategic fit.''
``Looking ahead, a lot of our growth emphasis is going to be international,'' he said.
As proof of Juve's claim, Americhem is making commercial concentrates runs at a 35,000-square-foot plant in Suzhou, China. The 30-employee plant, Americhem's first in Asia, is producing concentrates based on polyolefins, styrenics and other resins for fiber and other applications.
Americhem broke ground on the Suzhou project in October 2004 and began pilot production a year later. The plant can be expanded to as much as 80,000 square feet to accommodate future growth, said Phillip Spaninger, the firm's executive vice president of corporate development and international.
``This was really a matter of following our customers,'' Juve said of the move into China. ``And now, from a strategic angle, having locations in the U.S., Europe and Asia gives us a strategic advantage over regional players, especially with customers who want the same product across all three regions.''
Along the way, Americhem has had to make some adjustments to Chinese culture, Spaninger said.
``China is heavily relationship-driven,'' he said. ``The U.S. is also, but things happen at a different pace ... You have to prove yourself to Chinese companies and show them why they should buy material from you.''
Americhem's recent global efforts have included opening a sales office in Mexico City in 2004 and in Seoul, South Korea, earlier this year. Spaninger said there's ``a good possibility'' that Americhem will add capacity in Europe, either at its plant in Manchester, England, or at a new location.
In the next three or four years, foreign sales should account for 20-25 percent of Americhem's total sales, according to Juve.
``We've been spending the last couple of years building a foundation, setting up the Suzhou plant and our global sales offices,'' he said. ``We want 2006 to be a payoff year.''
For 2005, Americhem's sales are on track to grow 3-5 percent, pushing the firm close to the $200 million mark. Juve said Americhem can exceed that in 2006.
Americhem employs about 650 at eight plants worldwide. Its primary products are color and additive concentrates made from polyolefins, styrenics, polyester, nylon and PVC and sold into markets for fibers, construction, automotive and packaging.