The Paulding Chamber of Commerce recognized the accomplishments of three county employers at its inaugural Industry Appreciation Breakfast Wednesday morning at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport.
Hosted by the Chamber and Chattahoochee Technical College Community and Economic Development, the breakfast honored MG International as Industry of the Year, T&R Fixtures as Manufacturer of the Year, and Armacell as the recipient of the first Safety Award.
Officials plan to hold next year’s Industry Appreciation Awards ceremony in April.
MG International, located at 90 International Parkway in Dallas, is privately owned and headquartered in Sendai, Japan. According to a news release, MG International opened 45 years ago and began U.S. operations in Powder Springs in 1897. The company built a 45,000-square-foot building on 12 acres in Dallas and moved there in 1996.
“We moved to Paulding County for its labor source,” Plant Manager Takatoshi “Tiger” Yamamoto said in the release.
The company manufactures injection molding of high-precision plastics, primarily for the automotive industry, and currently employs 160 people. Current sales are about $15 million annually.
Yamamoto said MG International struggled in the economy from 2008-2010 but has “been busy” since 2011. The company is planning to expand operations to accommodate new business but doesn’t yet know the timing. “We may know something next year,” Yamamoto said.
T&R Fixtures began operations in 1999 in a 40,000-square-foot plant at 210 Commerce Drive in Dallas.
Owner Tom Tatzel and a former partner bought machinery from Shannon Display in Lithia Springs when it went out of business and set up operations in Dallas. The company now has two divisions comprising about 50 percent of the business each: Artisan Custom Closets, led by Division President Lisa Carlquist; and T&R Fixtures, led by Tatzel, president of the division and the entire company.
Artisan Custom Closets builds closets for individuals, and T&R Fixtures primarily produces fixtures for retail stores and commercial casework.
At its peak, T&R Fixtures employed about 100 people, but the economic downturn reduced the workforce to 25.
“It’s been a struggle; our business took a huge hit,” Tatzel said, “but we’re slowly trying to build up again. We’re back to 50 employees. Revenues are growing, but profit is slim.”
The plant has capacity to produce sales of $8 million but is currently producing about $6 million, he said. “Revenue is starting to come back,” Tatzel added.
He said the company considered locations on Fulton Industrial Boulevard and elsewhere but chose Paulding “because we decided the labor force was better up this way. A lot of people drive to Atlanta from Paulding, and we thought we’d do well getting good employees out here, and that’s worked out well.
“There are a lot of people out here and not a lot of industries,” he added.
Armacell manufactures thermal and acoustic elastomeric insulation materials and PET Core Foams. The flexible, foamed rubber tubes and sheets are used to insulate pipes and ductwork in buildings and in demanding industrial applications. The products prevent condensation forming, absorb sound and vibrations and protect installations against energy losses.
Opened in 1990, the Dallas plant is one of 19 Armacell facilities in 13 countries and four continents, and it has been a leader in earning company safety and housekeeping awards.
“We’ve done a lot of things on our own, working on risk assessments with our risk-insurance agencies,” Plant Manager Mike Heintzelman said. “We need to have a neat, tidy, orderly plant; if things are out of order, it’s hard to have a safe plant.”
With an already low accident incident rate in a company currently employing 27, Armacell in Dallas sought the Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), an OSHA program for small employers. “Whatever they find, we are obligated to fix,” Heintzelman said. “It’s a rigorous program through a strong partnership with the team at the Georgia Tech Occupational Safety and Health Cooperative Programs Office. We’re one of 17 small businesses in Georgia that have achieved this status.
“The recognition is great, but more important is that we don’t want our employees getting hurt; we want them to go home to their families without injuries. That’s our first driver. The other benefits include lower worker compensation insurance premiums, improved worker retention and the ability to keep operations and production running smoothly."
Heintzelman said accidents are costly, both in pain and suffering and in higher insurance rates. Attention to safety “helps our morale,” he adds.
“We have a strong safety culture, and we continue to work even deeper to strengthen it.”