Resin distributor Performance Polymers Inc. apparently made the right move by luring co-founder Michael Carota out of semi-retirement.
Since his return two years ago, sales have doubled, hitting the $140 million mark in 2005. Carota also has beefed up the sales staff at Leominster, Mass.-based Performance, adding a half-dozen sales reps between 2004 and 2005, with plans to add another half dozen by year's end. At that point, Performance will have a sales staff of 30.
``When I came back, I realized we had to get our commodity [resin] business back up and running again,'' Carota said recently by phone. ``We used to have a big commodity business, but that was dropped in favor of a focus on engineering resins. We also had to change the image of our company in people's minds and change attitudes within the company.''
One of the first things Carota did was to find ways for Performance - which he launched with four partners in 1989 - to make use of its affiliation with Univar NV, a massive European distributor that bought the company in 2002.
In 2005, Performance began working with Univar's extensive sales force in Canada and, earlier this year, began storing material at Univar warehouses in Mexico. Those moves have boosted Performance sales in both regions.
``We're owned by a $6 billion company that's been very successful in the chemical industry,'' Carota said. ``We had to start using that connection. We've got money and supply behind us when we walk in the door.''
Carota also credited David Jensen, a longtime polypropylene and propylene industry veteran, with rebuilding PP sales. Jensen came on board in June 2005, after a 26-year career with Sunoco Inc.
``Now I'd like to find somebody in product management for polyethylene that can do the same thing that Dave has done for us in polypropylene,'' Carota said.
The firm also is seeking to grow - organically or through acquisition; he did not provide details.
It was able to avoid resin shortages during the tight post-hurricane market of late 2005. Carota chalked this up to the firm's relationship as a branded supplier to Nova Chemicals Corp., Equistar Chemicals LP, Sunoco Inc., BASF Corp. and other resin makers.
``I think the resin companies took care of their direct customers and branded distributors first,'' Carota said. ``But if you were a distributor of generic or off-spec [resins] you might have been further down on the list.''
Performance's line card of suppliers grew to 16 when it added styrenic resins from Asahi Kasei Corp. in early 2005.