(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final 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
Brooklyn born and then California-based John Manuck said he had never been to Tennessee when he began planning in 1987 to build a plant in the South. In fact, his focus was on the Atlanta area.
The Founder, Chair and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Techmer PM LLC pointed-out a frame in his office that displayed an article from an old National Geographic magazine. The title was “Rising, Shining Tennessee.”
It captured his attention, so he decided to look at options in the Volunteer State.
“This (Clinton) was the last site I saw,” Manuck says of a number of visits to locations in several states. Yet, when he came to Clinton, his reaction was simply “Wow, this is it.”
The proximity to major interstate systems – 40, 75 and 81 – plus a nearby university for talent were deciding factors.
Today, the Clinton facility is the largest among Techmer PM’s locations that also include Los Angeles; Batavia, Ill.; Dalton, GA; New Castle, DE; and Wichita, KS. In addition to manufacturing, the Anderson County facility also houses many of the business functions for the 650-employee firm.
Manuck and his wife maintain two households – one here and a second home in the Los Angeles area.
One of the famous sayings in economic development is “it’s all about location, location, location,” and that is certainly the case for Techmer PM in recent years. The company that is so driven by technology is right in the middle of world-leading developments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in areas like low-cost carbon fiber, advanced manufacturing, and 3D printing.
The emergence of this region as a hotbed for these new, dynamic technologies plays so well to a philosophy that drives Manuck’s professional life.
“I’m a real fan of Alvin Toffler and his book The Third Wave,” Techmer PM’s CEO explains, noting that one of the key concepts the author espoused was customization during the third or post-industrial wave.
“I wanted Techmer PM to be a third wave business,” Manuck says, a fact illustrated by the company’s ability to meet the unique needs of its customers.
To do so, he has fully embraced Toffler’s philosophy as described in Manuck’s words: “If you fight the wave, you’re probably going under. If you ride the wave, you will succeed.”
Another key principle is the importance of good teamwork and communication. Perhaps those are key factors in the company being cited by Plastics News as a “Best Place to Work” two of the last three years.
For a technology company like Techmer PM, workforce is a critical factor, both in terms of recruiting and retention.
“We must create a culture to attract people where a high percentage will be able to advance and stay for the long term,” Manuck says. “We need to show our blue collar work force there’s a path to $20 an hour and beyond that will support a family, home ownership, and a car payment.”
The company also hires several new college graduating engineers each year – providing initial training, then rotating them through various positions until they get “drafted” for the long-term.
“I’ve had people ask why we make these hires when we don’t have an immediate opening,” Manuck says. “I tell them to let me know when we have too many qualified and talented engineers. Also, it is about having a committed philosophy of growth and opportunity for all members of the team.”
The Founder has clearly embraced Toffler’s philosophy, taken a number of risks, and warmly embraced new technologies. It’s proven to be very successful for the company.