PARAGOULD, Ark.—Throughout its 140-year history, GRT Rubber Technologies has prided itself on diverse product offerings to a broad range of industries, finding unique ways to add value for customers who purchase the company's conveyor belts and sheet rubber products.
But while the company has been profitable since its inception in 1880, the 100 employees of GRT have not always seen their own creativity and innovative ideas valued. This important growth dynamic returned to the company following its December 2014 carve-out from EnPro Industries, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, and subsequent partnership with Main Street Capital, a publicly traded business development corporation.
According to GRT, EnPro did not see GRT as a part of its core businesses, and did not prioritize GRT's growth—making the manufacturer, for a time, under-capitalized with limited strategic oversight.
"During our time with EnPro, their strategy evolved and GRT became less of a 'fit' with EnPro's vision," said David Brown, CEO of GRT Rubber Technologies. "Even though we were profitable, as a non-strategic partner it became difficult to get EnPro to invest in our growth, both from a capital equipment and a human talent perspective. This was recognized by EnPro as well as by the GRT Team, so the decision was made to divest GRT from EnPro and begin looking for a new partner that valued the GRT business model."
And the rest, they say, is history, as production over the past half-decade at GRT's lone 150,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in Arkansas has skyrocketed and markets served have broadened.
"Once we partnered with Main Street, the dynamic changed completely," Brown said. "Obviously having a 'willing' provider of capital made a tremendous difference in opening up possibilities. We immediately invested in some capital equipment that allowed us to expand our product offerings and add services that we didn't previously have."
Brown said GRT upgraded several of its manufacturing processes—which include calendering, rotocuring, flat pressing, autoclaving and slitting—to improve efficiency and quality, and was able to add a territory-based sales team.
"Main Street also differentiated themselves during the selection process in that they put emphasis on retaining the entire GRT Team and wanted to make sure the transition was as 'seamless' as possible," Brown said.
With more than 180 companies in their portfolio, Main Street has been able to offer perspective and business acumen in developing GRT's now-proven business model.
GRT has flourished in its production of lightweight belts, which has allowed the company to enter the e-commerce and airport baggage handling sectors, working with clients like Amazon and FedEx. GRT's lightweight belts also can be found within the pulp and paper and food packaging industries.
Brown said its newly developed cleated belts have opened the door to the agricultural sector, an area in which GRT expects its market share to grow, and expanded its involvement in mining and construction.