(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a three-part series based on an interview with the Founder, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Techmer PM, a company with a significant presence in Clinton.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The year was 1979, and John Manuck was working in California for a New York-based manufacturing company that produced high quality colorants and additives for the plastics industry.
“I was attending a plastics convention in Chicago, and a colleague insisted I go to dinner with some people from Rehrig Pacific Company,” he explains, noting he really did not want to go, but did. It was no doubt one of the best business decisions Manuck ever made.
“They (Rehrig Pacific) were thinking about installing a production line to produce color concentrates for dairy and beverage crates molded by the company at its six molding plants,” he says. The key challenge was ensuring a consistency in the colors of the crates and their durability after exposure to sunlight. Rehrig Pacific was not satisfied with the quality of the colorants from existing producers.
“I warned them that this was very different than their existing business and would not be a simple task,” Manuck said. “However, I told them if they had problems, they should contact me.”
Rehrig went ahead with their plan but soon found that the production line was underutilized and their costs were too high. Enter Manuck with a plan that launched Techmer PM, LLC. He assumed responsibility for the production line in November 1981 with a vision of filling a growing need for a western U.S. manufacturer with technical expertise in formulating plastic colorants and additives.
“At the outset, it was a matter of survival,” Manuck says in describing those early years when his focus was limited to the West Coast where there was limited quality competition. Yet, from the outset, the personable founder had a vision.
Today, he describes it this way: “We custom modify polymers and give them properties that enable them to perform in a wide variety of applications. We can change how something looks and feels and greatly increase its strength and durability. You tell us what product you want to design and produce, and we will formulate a polymer system to perform this function. ”
The company has come a long way from those early years when there were four people besides Manuck. A key turning point occurred in 1985 when the founder met with some Japanese business executives from Tokyo Printing Ink and Mitsui & Co.
“I got lucky,” Manuck says of the meeting and subsequent interactions. The Japanese were pitching one of their businesses that was coloring plastics, and Manuck invited the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tokyo Printing Ink to tour Techmer PM’s then newly relocated and upgraded manufacturing facility.
“I learned later that inviting them to tour the plant was totally unheard of at the time,” he explained. That gesture caused the Japanese CEO to reciprocate with an invitation for Manuck to tour one of its polymer plants in Japan. By then, Manuck had decided that Techmer PM would expand into synthetic fibers, and he made the trip to Japan.
“I had seen all kinds of polymer plants,” the chemical engineering graduate said. “This one was something special.”
The word “special” took on much greater meaning when the Japanese visitors who had been treated so special by Manuck became investors in Techmer PM and helped the company expand to Clinton.
The experience also reinforced another guiding philosophy of Manuck’s.
“I have preached to my team about partnering and collaboration,” he says. As illustration of this point, the alliance with the Japanese group has lasted more than a quarter of a century.
NEXT: Why Clinton?