Techmer PM planning Clinton expansion
After the Great Recession hit in 2008, business at Techmer PM, LLC dropped off some 15 to 20 percent.
Rather than lay off any of the 210 employees at the firm's plant in Eagle Bend Industrial Park, the company kept them busy.
If walls needed painted, they received fresh coats, recalled Techmer PM Site Manager Ron B. Lawson. If workers needed training, a grant he obtained help pay for it.
"We understood the importance of the guy that's out there on the floor doing the work every day," Lawson said.
"Having people with the intellectual ability to run these machines takes months, even years, to make them efficient."
The company's decision paid off when the economy started turning around.
"We didn't have to hire new people," Lawson said. "We were ahead of the curve."
Since the downturn of 2008 and a gradual rebound, Techmer PM has increased its workforce to 225 and works three shifts five days a week. There's also work on weekends.
The firm, which makes all types of additives and colors for plastics, has invested more than $11 million in new machinery in the last three years.
"That's a lot of money in this economy," Lawson said.
Now, Techmer PM, which does between $80 and $90 million in sales annually at its Clinton site, is looking at yet another physical expansion — a 10,000-square-foot addition.
It would be the fifth expansion since the company located in Clinton in 1988 in its original 78,000-square-foot facility off J.D. Yarnell Industrial Parkway.
The company now has a 200,000-square-foot plant, and its building and machinery are valued at $50 million.
A magazine article led the firm to Clinton, now the company's biggest plant.
Techmer PM — the name comes from Technical/Polymer and PM for Polymer Modifiers — got its start in Los Angeles.
After the company inked a partnership with a firm in Japan and another in Korea, Techmer founder John Manuck "wanted to expand and move to the East," Lawson said.
Manuck looked at properties in and around Atlanta but didn't find land that fit his needs.
Then, a May 1986 article in National Geographic titled "Rising, Shining Tennessee" caught his eye.
The search moved to the Volunteer State, where Manuck looked at several sites, but still no luck. The real estate agent "said he had one more location to show," Lawson recalled.
It was Eagle Bend, and "it was exactly what he (Manuck) was looking for." There was plenty of land for growth, a railroad spur, and it was close to Interstate 75 and its junction with I-40.
Today, Techmer PM owes its success largely to the fact it is so diversified, Lawson said.
It provides additives and colors for items ranging from detergent bottles to automotive parts to carpet fibers to the black, UV-resistant agricultural film seen on rows of crops.
It has a state-of-the-art laboratory for testing products staffed by people like Melanie O'Connell, an analytical chemist who checks on the strength of polymers that have been reinforced.
There's even a "weather-ometer" that simulates weather conditions for periods of up to several years to make sure products used outdoors are sturdy.
Each year, the company hires from one to four engineers straight out of college for further training, Lawson said. "We've got so many good people who take their jobs seriously that it makes my job so much easier," Lawson said.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel