It would have been easy to quit.
With high hopes and a fast-approaching finish line, Extruders Unlimited Inc. officials were in the final stages of moving into their new extrusion facility in Lakeland, Fla.
Two hurricanes moved through the area in 2004. Extruders Unlimited's new plant escaped each without a scratch. But escaping a third storm was apparently too much to ask.
Just days before the company would launch its vinyl lattice extrusion operation, Hurricane Jeanne, following a nearly identical path as its weaker predecessors, destroyed the new plant.
Jim Pearson and his Extruders Unlimited stood resilient.
By all indications, the company is back on track. Company officials introduced two new lattice products, including a variegated wood-fiber/PVC composite with a texturized finish, at Fencetech, an industry trade show, held Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Orlando.
``It got us right from the get-go,'' co-owner Jim Pearson said of the hurricane, in an interview at Fencetech.
Plant destroyed, feelings hurt, and with the market promising skyrocketing raw material and transportation costs, Pearson and his group, joined by co-owner Steve Hunter, pushed on.
Extruders Unlimited officials scrambled to lease a temporary building so they could fill orders and scrape by. Within months, the firm had built and opened a brand-new, 22,000-square-foot plant in nearby Fort Meade, Fla.
Now, Extruders Unlimited is running three extrusion lines and employs about 20.
Sales grew 50 percent in 2006, but Pearson cautions against any excitement regarding that figure.
``Once we get up to full speed, our sales will go up and down as the industry does,'' he said. ``Because we're a startup, we have nowhere to go but up.''
Extruders Unlimited keeps detailed colorant records and can match any vinyl extruder's product shade exactly, Pearson said.
Despite a downturn in the overall construction market, the vinyl fence, deck and railing category continues to thrive because of the macro-trend in the consumer segment toward low-maintenance building products.
Extruders Unlimited is riding that wave. In addition to adding capacity in 2007, Pearson said the company will explore branching out into other products.
``We've got plans to keep diversifying,'' he said. ``We're not going to just stick with lattice.''