Lee Hanson, like most entrepreneurs, believes strongly in growth through innovation. But he also is a businessman who is unafraid to expand via acquisition or the launch of a start-up company.
What he prefers, he said, is continuous internal growth by his company, Hanson Group L.L.C.—spurred by the development of new technology and products—and external expansion with the addition of a small firm with great potential that is a good fit for his company.
That is what he is aiming for, now and in the future. New products, in particular, have yielded the biggest growth for the Alpharetta, Ga.-headquartered company in the last year, and probably will do the same in the near future, he said.
"We have been developing and planting the seeds for several new unique chemistries that we are waiting to take off," the president and CEO of the group said at the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association annual meeting, held May 5-8 in Las Vegas.
He said large corporations are pushing the new offerings in the market "and have forecasted large growth. These products are doing what the old chemistry couldn't."
Some of the newer technologies the group has been working with end up in safety-related, military and environmental protection applications, Hanson said. "We also have various projects that focus on sustainability and reducing a company's carbon footprint."
In terms of how much additional growth the company will experience in the future, he said he would need a crystal ball to make that determination.
"We are currently just under $20 million in sales," Hanson said. "We have some large projects, and each could double our sales annually, but we have to be careful not to outgrow our capabilities and manpower. It's a real balancing act where our years of development are coming to fruition."
Hanson Group is comprised of a number of entities. It has two divisions, Aragon Elastomers L.L.C. in Louisville, Colo., and Alpharetta-based Visuron Technologies Inc., both purchased in 2010.
Visuron is the company's elastomer spray and coating operation, while Aragon is its hot cast urethane products business. Hanson Group does manufacturing at its Georgia and Colorado operations.
An offshoot of the group is POC Ventures, which produces a urethane elastomer-based product called Guardian Cap. It was created as a separate entity by Hanson and his wife Erin and is owned by his wife and daughters.
A majority of products made by the company are for private label. "We create the technology specifically for someone's applications, or they take one of our current products and put it into their product lines to round out their offerings," Hanson said.
The company has more than 2,000 formulas for polyurethane, polyurea and epoxy applications, he said.
Its urethanes business has been surprisingly steady as most customers order products regularly, he said. The need for the products, he said, is growing as they are moved into new markets. The firm primarily produces priority, high-performance goods in each of its businesses.
"Aragon is having record-breaking sales," Kyle Flanagan, state manager for the Guardian Caps operation, said at the PMA conference. He also handles business and technology development for Hanson Group and is involved in most aspects of the group's portfolio of companies.
Sales at Aragon have doubled over last year, he said. The business produces rock wall climbing holds, urethane wheels, mining parts, custom cast polyurethanes, custom polyurethane pre¬- polymers, recoil pads and urethane molds for casting concrete into rock, stone and other shapes.
"The growth is coming from our core molding business with new business in high performance liquid PU systems," Flanagan said. "We have a lot of new products and have experienced consistent growth. We're very reactive to customers' needs—we're the quick responder."
Oil and gas, along with the military sector, have been very strong for the group, Hanson said, while safety and environment protection goods also have done quite well.
Aside from new products and more technology development creating avenues of growth, he said he constantly is seeking other opportunities, with acquisitions at the top of the list.
Typically, he said, he is looking for smaller companies with great technology and sales under $5 million. Generally, a scientist heads up the company and is heavily involved in the development and production of products but has been unable to get out and market the firm's offerings.
That was the case at Aragon, where founder and owner Charles Demarest, a top scientist and entrepreneur in the polyurethane field, headed the operation.
He came up with all sorts of innovations and ran the business well but need¬- ed additional help in marketing.
Demarest, noted for his innovations in the polyurethane industry, now focuses on the science end of the business.
"We provide a larger entity that will allow the scientist to continue to invent while we package the science and technology for marketing to larger corporations," Hanson said. "It's a win-win for everyone."
He did not specify companies the group might be interested in, other than to say "we're talking to people now that might fall under our umbrella. They are mostly small, independently owned companies."