Hot Springs, Ark.-based Alliance Rubber Co. was founded in Alliance, Ohio, by William H. Spencer in 1923. Today the third-generation company manufactures 2,200 products and markets them in 55 countries. Bonnie Swayze is president of Alliance and ARCO Silicone, a division of Alliance that provides custom extruded and molded products, and has been with the 98-year-old family business since 1971.
Swayze said her greatest achievement has been maintaining 155 employees, with two-thirds of associates having been at the company for more than five years.
Swayze has numerous accomplishments under her belt. She was the first woman appointed to the Wholesale Stationers Association/Office Products Wholesalers Association board of directors. She founded the nonprofit Gallery on the Square for the Simpson County Guild of Artists and Craftsman in Franklin, Ky.
She received the Franklin-Simpson Renaissance First Annual Vision Award in Kentucky. Swayze has served on the WBENC Leadership Forum, Business Advisory Board of Western Kentucky University, Euro-American Women's Council and the Walmart National Vendor Council. She is actively involved with the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.
During the pandemic, Swayze said, Alliance produced silicone and rubber face shield strips for various companies. As well, employees were making new products within three days of the request by the customer.
Swayze said the best advice she's received is to not hire "yes" people. "Hire people who will tell you the truth," she said.
Alliance, the largest rubber band manufacturer in the U.S., won the annual Historically Underutilized Business Vendor Award from Office Depot in 2010. In 2012, the company won the Annual U.S. Department of Commerce NIST Award for Innovation, out of 6,000 American companies, she said. Alliance was awarded the Arkansas Governor's Export Award for Excellence in Exporting in 2013, and it was chosen Garland County Industry of the Year by Chamber of Commerce in 2014.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Swayze: Our quality and value are high, our lead times are short, but many customers want a "China" price.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Swayze: Most people do not expect women to be in charge of a manufacturing firm.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Swayze: My brother Richard Spencer [Alliance research director].