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Company Colorfully Fills Niche For Caulk

Originally published in Ohio.com on May 8, 2011
By Katie Byard, Beacon Journal business writer

Premier Industrial Supply owner Derek Miller and plant manager Jeff KiserPremier Industrial Supply Inc. in Stark isn't just a black and white operation.

JACKSON TWP.: Caulk and sealant are used to fill little cracks and gaps. But the products are the foundation of a growing manufacturing operation creating jobs in the area. In fewer than two years, Premier Industrial Supply Inc.'s startup caulk and sealant plant has grown from a handful of employees to 45 on two shifts. Company owner Derek J. Miller points out that he buys Ohio- or U.S.-made equipment, chemicals and other goods whenever he can. ''I'm a big believer in U.S. manufacturing,'' the 38-year-old Hudson native said. ''People present me with offshore opportunities and I steer them away.''

Last year, the plant near Interstate 77 close to the Summit County line churned out more than 6 million cartridges and other containers. Its products are used in everything from roofs and windows to oil rigs. This month, the company is hiring more production workers. Miller said the pay is competitive for the area. With space getting tight in the nondescript metal building the company leases, Miller plans to buy land close by and build a larger facility.

Premier Industrial makes the standard white caulk and sealant. But its niche is offering a quick turnaround on orders for specific colors, such as ''school bus yellow'' and ''hunter green.'' The yellow sealant typically ends up in school buses. ''We'll do any color for you,'' Miller said. ''This morning a customer in Indiana called us for a charcoal gray. They need a whole skid of it in Indiana tomorrow.''

Premier Industrial Supply worker Andrew GarlockMiller touts that his company — a small player in the multibillion-dollar sealant/caulk industry — has seen five years of continued growth amid the economic downturn. Sales should top $12 million this year, up from $10 million last year, Miller said. Premier Industrial's caulks and sealants aren't available in big-box home stores. Rather, the company sells to building supply centers and distributors. Miller said many competitors — considerably larger companies — dedicate much of their production to big batches of high-demand colors, such as white and black. ''To change from white sealant to silver sealant — for us it's easy,'' Miller said. The big companies ''do such large batches they can't adapt [production] in a timely manner.''

Miller founded Premier Industrial in Arizona in 2006 after working for several years in the sealant industry. The company's headquarters remain in Phoenix.  Before the Jackson Township plant began operating, the company outsourced manufacturing, contracting with U.S. suppliers to produce caulk and sealant to its specifications. In fact, the initial plan for the Jackson Township facility — which Premier Industrial began leasing in 2009 — did not include manufacturing. The plan was for the building to be a warehouse/distribution center for growing markets in the Midwest and eastern United States.

Miller decided to add manufacturing in late 2009, when his suppliers failed to keep pace with Premier Industrial's sales growth. ''Demand for our branded product was increasing,'' he said. ''We'd have to wait on orders, have back orders [with suppliers]. ''So we decided to do it ourselves.'' He's invested $3 million in the place, installing 11 mixers ranging in size from 1 gallon to 300 gallons and seven high-speed filling machines used to pump the sealant and caulk into containers. Sales personnel also work at the Jackson Township facility. The company also has hired chemists and lab technicians to come up with nonflammable sealant and caulk. Production manager Jeff Kiser noted that many of the production workers were laid off from other factory jobs. ''It's crazy,'' Kiser said. ''It's really awesome to be with something that's growing.''