WAYNE, N.J.—If Passaic Rubber Co. has a formula for remaining rock steady during both good and difficult times, it ought to bottle it.
Few older, small- to medium-sized rubber product companies have survived for nine and a half decades while continuing to expand and remain financially healthy in good and bad times.
It has been successful for a variety of reasons: innovative products; well-calculated acquisitions; forward-thinking, consistent management.
And it is not afraid to make an investment that creates a new branch within the company.
Passaic has been growing on several fronts for years. “We're diversified enough that if one market is down, another is picking up,” said Jeff Leach, chairman and chief operating officer of the Wayne-headquartered company.
He co-owns the 96-year-old business with J.D Mathey, president and CEO. They are fourth-generation owners of the firm. Their great-grandfathers founded Passaic in 1919.
A manufacturer of endless belts for customers in need of belts with no seams, lacing or splicing; rubber covered rollers; custom calendered goods, both cured and uncured, supported and unsupported; tank linings; and molded products, among other things, the company branched out again earlier this year when it purchased Pershing Roller Corp., a manufacturer of small- to medium-sized rubber covered rollers.
Passaic moved all acquired assets, including machinery, from the Bloomfield, N.J., firm's factory into its refurbished 70,000-sq.-ft. plant in Wayne. “We gutted much of the building down to its studs” in 2013, Leach said.
“The transition of Pershing to Passaic has worked out well,” he said. “We use the same equipment and the same recopies, so it has been very smooth.”
It relocated the Pershing operation to the second floor of its plant next to the company's rubber products operation. Prior to the acquisition, the firm primarily made medium to larger sized rollers. The addition of the Pershing business expands its roller portfolio significantly.
In terms of its endless belting and other businesses, the firm is currently very busy, Leach said. “We have lots of work ... in the construction and agricultural industries in terms of belts and rollers.”
He said there is never a time Passaic does not have a number of new products on the market. “We're always developing a new mousetrap because we're very market-based. We're not sales driven.”
New technology, he said, is extremely important to the firm. “We try to stay abreast of the newer elastomers coming on the market.”
Passaic only has one salesman in the field because the company primarily sells through distributors. It also meets with customers at NIBA—The Belting Association conventions.
“We're a contract manufacturer, and customers often put their names on the products,” he said.
Of late, the company has been emphasizing its molding department, where it has made a good deal of investment, “because we're seeing a lot of opportunity in that area,” Leach said.
“People come to us with ideas they want us to develop ... and we're not afraid to spend money to make those products and venture into unchartered waters.”
On the acquisition front, Leach said the company continues to look for ways to branch out.
Passaic is looking for businesses within its focus of growth. The firm reviews all possibilities, but only strikes if it's an ideal fit, he said.