Chase Plastics Services Inc. has weathered the recent economic storm and is in growth mode again.
Since late 2010, the Clarkston, Mich.-based firm has added 21 employees, completed a 30,000-square-foot expansion at its hub in South Bend, Ind., and added new blending equipment and break-bulk capacity in South Bend as well.
Along the way, Chase Plastics has exited several businesses to focus on resin distribution.
“Resin distribution is what we do absolutely best,” President and founder Kevin Chase said in a recent phone interview. “So we've gotten out of trucking, public warehousing, logistics and real estate.
“We thought we could vertically integrate in those other businesses, but the recession taught us a lot of lessons. Resin distribution was always our passion.”
The other businesses were “sold or swapped,” said Chase, who launched the firm in 1992. The changes came after the firm's sales fell 40 percent in late 2008, leading to the elimination of 12 jobs in early 2009 — the first time Chase Plastics ever had to take such action.
“That was the headwind of an incredible storm,” he said. “But we rallied really quick.”
By early 2010, Chase Plastics was able to add two more material suppliers to those it represents — Kraiburg TPE Corp. and Mitsubishi Engineering Plastics Corp. The firm now distributes material for 39 suppliers, only a few less than its peak total. Chase Plastics also has adjusted its approach along the way, moving from a reliance on suppliers based outside of North America to what he calls “a good mix of domestic and foreign suppliers” today.
Then in November, Chase said he and the firm's board “believed the recovery was going to be here, and that it was time to reinvest in personnel.”
Of the 21 new positions, six are in sales. Chase said the firm needed more sellers in some large geographic areas that were understaffed. The remaining 15 new hires are in administration.
In South Bend, the 30,000-square-foot addition enabled Chase Plastics to double its break-bulk shipping capacity. It also tripled its resin-blending capacity by purchasing and installing a new Maguire blender. The site now covers almost 130,000 square feet.
This month, Chase Plastics is installing Prophet 21, a customized software program that officials said can streamline inventory management and allow materials ordering to take place in real time. When the software is in place, the company's sales staff will be able to provide accurate, real-time inventory status.
After falling 12 percent overall in 2009, Chase Plastics' sales shot up 50 percent in 2010 and are on pace to almost double in 2011. If that holds true, the firm will have annual sales of more than $150 million.
“We're fine-tuning the business and looking to work deeper with our suppliers,” Chase said.
Chase began his distribution career with BorgWarner Inc.'s Plastic Service Centers unit in 1983. Chase and his wife, Carole, now are the largest investors in Chase Plastics.