VPC was featured in an article of the Rochester Business Journal; Popularity of fiberglass goods shapes growth at Medina firm. Read on for more details, or download the PDF for a printable copy.
Popularity of Fiberglass Goods Shapes Growth at Medina Firm
By ANDREA DECKERT
June 22, 2012
Virtual Polymer Compounds LLC, which has made products ranging from irrigation pump shelters for the Mojave Desert to parts in military vehicles, foresees new markets along with more work from current customers as the use of fiberglass products in various industries gains popularity.
The firm based in Medina, Orleans County, is one of a handful of fiberglass manufacturers in North America that supply customized products. The business has roughly 30 workers but is hiring several more as demand for its products grows, General Manager James Heuer said. “Our business is strong now, and we expect that to continue for some time,” Heuer said. The company does business with Fortune 500 companies, national historic attractions, the military and local governments. Customers include Alcoa Inc., General Dynamics Corp., Eastman Kodak Co., SC Johnson & Son Inc., Fort Bragg, Syracuse University, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.
The company’s most recognizable products may be its HyTech fiberglass shelter booths, which are used as parking lot attendant shelters, ticket booths, guard shacks and kiosks at universities, airports, gas stations and theme parks across the country. VPC began in the early 1990s, mainly doing repair and field restoration, as well as making parts for original equipment manufacturers. Over the years, VPC
added custom products and expanded its customer base through a network of representatives and distributors. VPC’s principal owner for the past several years has been Corey Hogan, an attorney in Amherst, Erie County.
The business has done a majority of work in industries such as water and wastewater, industrial and chemical. It more recently has been seeing growth in areas such as architecture, where flexible fiberglass is being used to make complex parts like decorative cornices for older buildings. The company completed a project that involved using its fiberglass composite to construct a church steeple that concealed a cell tower in a historic area. Unlike wood or other materials, the fiberglass allowed the tower to transmit cellular signals. Other growth markets for the company include energy and transportation.
VPC is working on a railcar refurbishment project for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, focusing on the trim around the windows and doors. The firm’s products are used around the world. Companies in North America, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Turkey have used VPC products. The products include shelters along the Australian shoreline to protect sensitive weather equipment; troughs, weirs and baffles for municipal wastewater treatment plants; shelters designed to withstand 130-mph winds; stairs, ladders, platforms and railings; and complete manhole systems. The company is beginning a confidential project in Vietnam. ‘
Heuer declined to disclose revenues but said the firm has grown in each of the past five years. Sales for the first six months of 2012 nearly match revenues for all of 2011, he said. The company’s success is due in part to the increasing use of fiberglass products as a substitute for precast concrete, particularly in the construction industry, Heuer said.
A recent study by the firm Research and Markets projects that the demand for fiberglass products will grow nearly 5 percent annually for the next two years, with the major end user markets including the construction, automotive, consumer goods, infrastructure and transportation sectors. Fiberglass products are manufactured from a light, non-porous substance in sturdy one-piece molds. That is in contrast to concrete, which, because of its weight, is typically created and installed in sections.
Because of their physical attributes, fiberglass products can resist radical and volatile chemical and environmental challenges, Heuer said. They do not rot, corrode or warp. VPC has room to grow on 40 acres, and Heuer expects it will expand soon. A focus there is on green initiatives. Heuer also expects VPC to launch new products this year that have traditionally been made of steel and cast iron. “There are a number of possibilities,” he said.
YNN’s In-Depth Biz Profile: Virtual Polymer Compounds
James Heuer, VPC General Manager, was interviewed by Geoff Redick of YNN (Your News Network) Rochester about Virtual Polymer Compounds past and present.
In-Depth Biz Profile: VPC
By Geoff Redick
June 18, 2012
A unique business in Orleans County is making a name for itself, by embracing what they call “the new era of ‘odd jobs.'” YNN’s Geoff Redick has our report.
James Heuer, VPC General Manager said, “There are other people making transportation parts; there are other people making parts for water and wastewater; there’s other people making contract manufacturing.We just bring it all together into one company.”
From the cars on our roads to the sewers below, more and more, we’re making things with plastic. Heuer said, “Corrosion-resistant, moisture resistant…much better than steel or wood in a lot of cases.” Virtual Polymer Compounds has latched onto that phenomenon, and made a business out of it. Heuer said, “Other companies in the area came to us, to ask us if we could make some parts for them, and we started making their parts for them to make into their products.”
That’s how it started for VPC in the early 1990’s, odd jobs. Heuer said, “Primarily a company that was formed to do repair and restoration work at some of the local companies in Rochester, Niagara Falls, Buffalo.” Now VPC employs about 25 workers at its Ridge Road factory in rural Orleans County. They make the things you wouldn’t think about, where you see the toll booth operator, they make the booth.
Heuer said, “These are all our molds, and this is the kind of thing that, we’ve got them all over the place.” And because clients always need new parts and repairs, the business has been virtually recession-proof.
Heuer said, “We’ve actually grown significantly every year for the last five years. Part of that has been because the economy’s been bad; some companies, they haven’t had the capital funds to replace some of their equipment We’ve had some companies, they do a tank repair, and that can get them through another five years rather than go out and buy a new tank for five, six times the cost.”
With that kind of growth already, more is planned and VPC is hiring. Heuer added, “It’s always a challenge trying to find good people. We’re hiring right now. We also added a second-shift in the afternoon because of the volume that we’ve been doing. So we’re trying to get some people working that shift as well.” For more on applying for a career with VPC, click here.