Avon Lake, Ohio — In the words of Tracy Garrison, Geon Performance Solutions is an old company that's a new startup.
Garrison is the CEO of Geon PS, founded by investment firm SK Capital Partners when it acquired the Performance Products and Solutions business of PolyOne Corp. for $775 million in October.
What he means by that turn of phrase is that although Geon only officially opened its doors a few months ago, its namesake brand of PVC compounds has been around for almost 100 years.
"We're a global leader with a legacy brand," he said in a Feb. 4 interview at the Geon PS headquarters in Avon Lake. Later this year, the firm will move into new offices in nearby Westlake.
Geon PS has annual sales of around $800 million and includes one of North America's largest PVC compounding businesses. The business also makes polypropylene-based compounds and provides contract manufacturing. It sells mainly into North American construction and automotive end markets.
"We're working hard for our global brand," said Garrison, who has more than 25 years of industry experience, most recently as president and CEO of Hexpol Compounding Americas. "We have the flexibility and agility that we didn't have as a public company. We're empowered to run fast and grow."
New York-based SK also owns nylon 6/6 maker Ascend Performance Materials and additives supplier SI Group. "SK steps in with a laser focus on chemicals," Garrison said. "They want to make an ecosystem of great companies all in the same space."
The Geon PS product mix features Geon-brand PVC compounds, which first were made by rubber supplier B.F. Goodrich. Goodrich launched production of PVC resin and related compounds and end products in the 1920s and began selling the materials to outside customers in the 1940s.
In 1993, Goodrich spun off Geon as a separate business, with the firm later divesting its PVC resin business. Geon then merged with Cleveland-based M.A. Hanna Co. — a longtime mining firm that had transitioned into plastics — in 2000 to form PolyOne.
Geon PS now employs 1,100 at 11 production sites: seven in the U.S., two in Canada and single sites in Mexico and China. Garrison said these locations allow the firm to be close to customers while also targeting new applications.
"We've got a well-invested footprint," he added. "And with new applications and innovation, we can build on other chemistries and markets."
Chief Commercial Officer Larry Shaw said Feb. 4 that Geon PS "has been invested in R&D and will continue to be." Shaw, who joined PolyOne in 2015 and also spent 28 years with Dow, said that being able to offer polypropylene and other resins outside of PVC is an advantage for the firm in automotive and other markets.
Sustainability also is important to the new Geon.
"We have a mandate to make sure [sustainability] is a core competency," Garrison said. "We want to connect to other companies and be right there with them on safety and quality." Shaw pointed out that PVC and PP are recycled, and that the firm's bioplasticizers also play a role in sustainability.
In addition to sharing office space with PolyOne for the time being, PolyOne's distribution unit will continue to carry Geon compounds. Geon PS also will continue to do toll compounding for PolyOne.
"This relationship will be good for both organizations," Garrison said.
New product developments at Geon PS include Geon Bold Alloys, darker colors that officials said bring together superior weathering performance with excellent color hold. They added that the outdoor weatherable materials are tailor-made for dark color capstock, profiles and sheet used in exterior building applications, such as decking, fencing, windows and trim.
New Fiberloc Optimal or Extreme Composites work well in either injection molding or extrusion applications, officials said. They added that the materials allow customers to design stronger, more durable, lighter weight and more imaginative components while reducing energy and product life cycle costs. The new products can result in up to 50 percent reduction in wear vs. traditional glass composites.
For 2020, Garrison said, Geon PS "is cautiously optimistic and bullish on some markets."
"We should see sales growth of GDP or slightly more. We have a lot in the pipeline. We'll be taking the handrails off and knocking on doors," he added. "And organic growth will be the fuel that will allow us to do other things."