An unusual blend of Vermont conservatism and bold activism characterizes Mack Molding Co., the latest Plastics News Processor of the Year.
Mack achieved great success in computer-related business during the 1990s, then lost most of it to Asia. To the credit of management and owner Don Kendall, Mack not only survived, but bounced back by becoming much more diversified. Mack's markets now include medical, office furniture, all-terrain vehicles and heavy-truck parts.
We tell Mack's story in a Page 1 story this week. Our hope is that Mack, as well as the two other finalists, Berry Plastics Corp. and Innovative Injection Technologies Inc., can serve as examples to the rest of the plastics industry.
Mack's leaders have refused to join the race to low-wage production in countries such as China or India - resisting even when major customers asked. Kendall also believes in avoiding long-term debt, another seemingly old-fashioned idea.
Those bedrock principles put Mack management in a good position to engineer the turnaround.
Mack certainly is a leader in becoming more ``China-proof,'' and a big part of its success comes from people - flexible management and ownership willing to dedicate the time, effort and money to find new ways forward.
Mack should be a role model for several other award criteria, including customer relations, employee relations and community involvement. Bosses base the firm's bonus system on customer feedback and the company's profitability. Employees can take advantage of several programs that promote healthy living, including a racquetball court and workout room at Mack's headquarters in small-town Arlington, Vt. A new performing arts center at the high school in Arlington is just one of many causes the company supports.
Mack was a finalist for the award back in 1999. This year, Mack was self-nominated by its director of communications, Julie Horst.
A solid, all-American company that has adapted to the fierce global economy, Mack is a well-deserved Processor of the Year.
The two other finalists couldn't be more different, but are impressive success stories:
Berry Plastics, a packaging juggernaut with $1.45 billion in 2006 sales, lives in the world of high-cavitation molding and thermoforming, under ownership by big private equity funds. Evansville, Ind.-based Berry has purchased a mind-boggling 22 companies - all under a top management team, led by Ira Boots. His team essentially has stayed the same for more than 25 years.
Berry was nominated by Bob Shah, a financial manager at the company.
Innovative Injection Technologies, known as i2Tech, is the old Mid-Central Plastics Inc. in West Des Moines, Iowa. The custom injection molder benefits from progressive, energetic ownership by Robert Janeczko and his son, Josh, who bought the company in 2003. They have invested several million dollars into the plant and lead a management team with many years of experience.
Small but mighty, i2Tech is an important, innovative supplier to its demanding customers such as John Deere, Arctic Cat and Kawasaki.
Two suppliers nominated i2Tech: Gary Foote of Technical Polymers LLC in Buford, Ga., and Bob Rozankovic of Valiant Tool and Mold Inc. in Windsor, Ontario.