Avon, Ohio — Plastics remain an important aspect of the business model at specialty chemicals distributor Maroon Group.
"We're bullish long term on plastics because of the scale that we've built," President and Chief Operating Officer Mike McKenna said Feb. 5 in an interview at Maroon's headquarters in Avon. "Plastics are in a great spot for us. We've made organic investments and grown our sales team and tech resources."
In late 2019, Maroon moved its Addipel business unit, a custom materials blender, from Avon Lake, Ohio, to nearby Elyria. Addipel now is in a new 40,000-square-foot warehouse and production site that includes in-house ribbon blenders, high-speed mixers and custom packaging services.
Addipel offers formulating and processing of a wide range of plastic resins and additives. Officials said at the time that the move immediately helps with warehousing and production space, but it also gives the business room to add additional capacity. McKenna said Addipel now has the space to expand into different product areas, including nondust blends.
On an annual basis, plastics applications generate 20-25 percent of Maroon Group's sales. The firm's plastics business historically grows at a 10 percent annual rate, but McKenna said growth this year might be a little lower as the global economy slows down.
Maroon's plastics business hasn't been affected much by challenges to single-use plastics applications, McKenna said, because the firm makes a lot of its plastics sales to compounders and concentrate makers. But sustainability remains an important topic across all of the firm's product lines.
"Sustainability is about corporate responsibility," he said. "Customers and employees want that."
Maroon is a distributor of specialty chemicals, including many plastics additives. The firm has made 10 acquisitions since New York-based private equity firm CI Capital LLC acquired Maroon in mid-2014.
Addipel was the first of those 10 to be acquired, with that deal coming in late 2014, just a few months after CI bought Maroon. McKenna said that for the near future, Maroon isn't emphasizing plastics-related acquisitions. The firm currently is satisfied with the size of its plastics business, he added.
Maroon's most recent plastics-related deal came in mid-2016 when it purchased specialty chemicals distributor U.S. Chemicals LLC of Darien, Conn. U.S. Chemicals distributes several plastic feedstocks, including styrene monomer, as well as epoxy resins.
Maroon also recently supported the Chemical Education Foundation's You Be the Chemist Challenge. The Cleveland-based regional competition for grade-school students is a collaborative, multilevel academic effort that celebrates the science of chemistry and inspires students to explore chemistry as well as STEM careers.
The event took place at the Lake Erie Science Center in downtown Cleveland. The winning teams advance to a national-level competition in Houston.
In the management ranks, Terry Hill took the place of Mark Reichard as Maroon's CEO in May 2019. Hill had served on Maroon's board since 2017 and held numerous management roles in a 30-year career with chemicals distributor Univar. Reichard, who joined Maroon in 1982, continues to serve as the firm's executive vice chairman.
Also in May, Maroon hired Jacques Poincloux as its technical manager consultant for resins. Poincloux has more than 40 years of polymers industry experience. Officials said he'll serve as Maroon's in-house subject matter expert in epoxy chemistry for coatings, adhesives, sealants, elastomers, construction and composites.
McKenna said that Maroon's hiring of Poincloux and its investments in other plastics-related assets are in response to customer requests.
"We're asking our customers what they need," he said. "We're going from selling to solving."