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THEN AND NOW: Mike Meyer, BRC Rubber & Plastics Inc.

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Mike Meyer, BRC Rubber & Plastics Inc.
Mike Meyer, BRC Rubber & Plastics Inc.

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—BRC Rubber & Plastics Inc. is in pretty good shape now compared to 2007, according to Executive Vice President Mike Meyer.

The second half of 2008 and all of 2009 weren't good because of the recession, but for the Fort Wayne-based supplier of molded rubber products—mainly to automotive—the numbers and the list of projects undertaken in the past seven years speak for itself.

It bought the assets of Imco Inc. in 2009, and then added the assets from a Veyance Technologies Inc. molding plant in Quebec in 2011.

Last year, BRC moved into a new headquarters and technical center in Fort Wayne, freeing up 12,000 square feet in its Churubusco, Ind., site—all of its production is in Indiana—for manufacturing. Thus far, it has placed six presses in the space, with another four planned at some point.

It also moved into an old Vibracoustic facility in Ligonier, Ind., that spans 100,000 square feet, triple the size of the plant BRC previously had in that town to service its industrial customers. BRC then moved into a larger office in Auburn Hills, Mich., for its auto sales and engineering staff this past February, and it is in the process of adding a second mixing line for its Montpelier rubber compounding facility that feeds all four of its molding shops.

Sales have gone from just over $50 million in 2007 to $89 million in 2013, according to Meyer.

“We've actually fared pretty well, all things considered,” he said. “When the recession hit, we had the ability to withstand it primarily because we went into it debt-free. So as volume was greatly reduced, we didn't have to worry about servicing debt.”

He added that BRC always has been a low-cost operator, and that's one of the keys to manufacturing competitively in the U.S. “If you stay low-cost, when the bad times hit, you can kind of make your way through them.”

BRC will continue to have a bright future as a regional manufacturer in North America if it provides innovation and technical solutions, Meyer said. “I think there's still room for a good regional manufacturer in this area.”

That was one of the reasons for the move to the larger technical center and headquarters in Fort Wayne, to keep adding to its technical resources, both in terms of equipment and staff. “The customers today are expecting their suppliers to bring (technical resources) to their benefit,” he said. “We have to do that in order to survive and keep getting their business.”

There are obstacles to deal with, including the cost burdens of the Affordable Care Act and more stringent requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency, Meyer said. BRC changed its health care plan and provider to help mitigate cost increases and does the best job it can to meet EPA requirements at the lowest possible cost.

BRC, dealing in automotive, faces competition from around the globe to keep its place as a supplier to the car industry. Meyer said it has studied branching out overseas, but it hasn't made sense for the Indiana-based firm. “It's not just putting a plant in somewhere,” he said. “You have to have the technical resources there as well.”

The molded goods maker will continue to evaluate acquisitions, as consolidation will continue. That will help BRC have the critical mass needed to be able to thrive in the competitive automotive sector. “I think we should have enough wherewithal to continue, as long as we keep our costs low and we keep our technical resources adequate to do the job, I think we can survive,” Meyer said. “That's the key is to sustain and survive and, along the way, stay healthy.”