RICHMOND, IND. — At the corner of North 12th and North F streets here in this eastern Indiana city, sits the headquarters for Primex Plastics Corp.
For six blocks along North F, hulking white buildings extend beyond where an American flag flies in front of the very first building the company occupied 35 years ago.
But Primex even extends beyond Richmond, and the custom sheet extrusion company has locations in Garfield, NJ; Reedsburg, WI; Oakwood, GA; and Mesquite, NV, to go along with its Indiana site that also doubles as corporate headquarters.
What was once a run-down stretch has given way to building after building of extrusion machinery that’s churning out different thicknesses and types of plastics for a wide variety of end uses.
Primex doesn’t make portable toilets, for example, but it makes the plastic sheeting that becomes portable toilets.
End users for the company’s sheeting includes the food packaging, automotive, health care, toy, textile, cosmetic, construction, appliance, toy, graphic arts and pharmaceutical industries.
“It’s this kind of diversity — each building at the Primex site in Indiana handles a different type of plastic — that has been a key to the success and growth of the company,” said Tim Schultz as he walked through the site on one particularly warm Tuesday morning. “There’s about 1.2 million square feet under all of those roofs.”
“That’s the great thing about Primex, we’re so diversified that we have a broad spectrum of customers,” the vice president of sales and marketing for Primex said.
Extruders, running around the clock, create sheets from a hundredth of an inch to half an inch thick.
The company uses polystyrene, polyethylene, ABS, polypropylene and polyester to extrude its many sizes of sheeting and provides specialty products as well. The custom nature of the business means that Primex even has its own department to make custom wooden pallets to handle the different sizes of product that’s shipped out.
“We have largely been organic growth-oriented and growing with our customer base,” Schultz said.
And part of that growth is the new John J. Farber Technology & Innovation Center, a dedicated space where research and development can take place for the entire company, not just Primex in Richmond, which has doubled as corporate headquarters since 1990.
“It’s not just about this site. It’s about the whole organization. We’re coming up on 50 years. So to me, it’s not about Richmond. It’s about the whole company and that whole company is not just the Primex sheet plants,” President Michael J. Cramer said.
Primex operates in buildings along six blocks of one street in Richmond.
Primex also operates two subsidiaries, O’Neil Color & Compounding and Woodruff Corp. O’Neil, a maker of color and additive concentrates and technical compounds, has locations in Garfield, NJ, and Jasper, TN. Woodruff, a maker of corrugated plastic and solid sheet for packaging, is located at a different site in Richmond.
Named in honor of the founder and chairman of ICC Industries Inc., owner of Primex Plastics, the new center is seen as more than just a research and development facility for the company and its customers.
Much more, Cramer said. “It brings us all together.”
True to its name, the center is designed to advance innovation and technology in the world of polymers and sheeting.
But the 8,000 square-foot site also serves as a focal point for Primex, where employees from different departments can come together and learn about the company and what it does on a deeper level. Customers also can come in to discover more about Primex and how it does business as well.
“We found a growing need to serve the customer base with the technical side of our business,” Schultz said.
“Polymer materials are becoming more and more sophisticated and important, and the center allows Primex to trade off of its expertise and know-how to help customers,” the men said.
“It’s gotten to the point where you need to have some level of sophistication, and this was created to address that and position us for the future,” the company president said.
“It’s just an extension of what we’ve done over the past nearly 50 years,” Schultz said about providing customer service and finding answers to customer problems.
This new dedicated space also will be used by the company as an educational outreach tool to potentially attract new employees through local schools.
“We’re trying to create an atmosphere where you’re giving people an opportunity for a career as opposed to a job,” Cramer said. “It’s all about people at the end of the day.”
It’s people. It’s polymers. It’s a learning center, too,” he said.