May 16, 2019


Jenny Gaines
Senior Director, Communications & Engagement
(571) 348-5110

Manufacturers Chemicals Celebrates 100 Years of Service

Cleveland, TN – With an ever-evolving and competitive landscape in the specialty chemical industry, few companies can tout 100 years of service. Manufacturers Chemicals, a segment of Synalloy Chemicals located in Cleveland, Tennessee, has achieved this milestone by maintaining a resilient, laser-focused vision and staying ahead of industry trends.

As a spinoff of Hardwick Woolen Mills’ chemical division, Manufacturers Chemicals (MC) has supported the local economy and provided a safe working environment for employees since 1919. The company will commemorate its centennial anniversary on May 16 with a luncheon at the Cleveland Country Club that includes employees and customers, along with key industry, local and state officials as honored guests.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be celebrating this milestone with our outstanding employees, our community, our customers, and all the people who continue to support our business,” said Greg Gibson, President of Synalloy Chemicals, Synalloy’s business unit that includes Manufacturers Chemicals. “Our legacy is significant, and as a cornerstone of this community, we have long maintained a family environment that attracts talented employees and provides quality jobs in this area.”

How It All Started

In 1919, Manufacturers Soap and Chemical was founded by Hardwick Woolen Mills, then the world’s largest manufacturer of men’s suits. With a totally integrated manufacturing system, Hardwick took the next step and formed a chemical company that could supply its needs. In doing so, the company was 45 years ahead of other major textile firms, such as Burlington, J.P. Stevens, West Point Pepperell and Bibb Manufacturing, in creating those in-house chemical suppliers. Notably, those other major textile firms and their chemical branches are now out of business. Hardwick Clothes and Manufacturers Soap and Chemical/Manufacturers Chemical, LLC, which was incorporated in 1923, are still in business and are two of the oldest companies in Cleveland.

In the early 1940s, Hardwick ceased production of yarn and fabric and outsourced to Peerless Woolen Mills and later Burlington Industries, concentrating on cutting and sewing garments. At that time, the company sold Manufacturers Soap and Chemical to W.T. Corn, then Manager.

He concentrated company sales efforts on the then-strong hosiery business up and down the Tennessee River and the newly forming carpet and rug industry in North Georgia. By 1950, the business had grown to a million dollars in sales, and a sales company – Manufacturers Chemical Corporation – was formed as a subsidiary. At this time, many other small chemical companies were forming to capture textile business. Today most of those are also out of business, and in some cases were acquired by Manufacturers Chemicals.

In the early 1970s, after hiring Ron Braam, who would eventually become President, along with nine employees, Manufacturers Chemicals quickly developed a group of fiber processing agents and softeners for more sophisticated products. By the mid-1970s, the company had turned the corner. Manufacturers Chemicals installed its first chemical reactors and began to sell intermediates to other small chemical companies in the region.

In 1977, the company moved to its current plant site ― a 15,000-square-foot building in the industrial area of Cleveland that included labs and office space. The business flourished at the new location, and exponentially increased its footprint every couple of years to what is today’s 110,000-square-foot facility. The original plant sat on five acres of land; today it encompasses 12 acres.

As Manufacturer Chemicals continued to grow and enhance its capabilities, the textile business in the U.S. began to wither. Company leaders were forced to rethink their strategy, and moved the company’s focus to the production of surfactants, lubricants and defoaming agents. Manufacturers Chemicals survived by analyzing what was needed in the region and changing their business to meet those demands.

In 1996, when Manufacturers Chemicals was purchased by Synalloy, the company was producing specialty chemicals used in 17 distinct markets, from paper and carpet to cosmetic, lubricant, mining and automotive applications, among others. Revenues currently total approximately $45 million per year, and the company retains 60 employees.

As a segment of Synalloy, Manufacturers Chemicals continues to evolve and transform. “Remaining flexible, proactive and responsive to market changes and demands has been crucial to the organization’s success,” Gibson said. “Today, a winning combination of talented staff, state-of-the-art equipment and broad capabilities enables the company to respond quickly and efficiently to customer needs, from synthesis to blending at both small to large scales.”

As a result of business growth — and to meet market demand, Synalloy currently has two capital investment projects under way, according to Gibson.

“Synalloy makes continual capital investments into its chemical operations, which is a testament to the parent company’s strategy of growing both organically and through acquisition,” Gibson said. “Our current capital projects focus on doubling our capacity for flaked products ― which are used in household, industrial and institutional (HI&I) and cosmetic markets — and increasing our hot oil reactor capacity to help expand our overall product line capabilities. The hot oil reactor is being constructed in two to three phases, with the first phase currently complete.”

It’s All About Employees and Customers

In achieving this 100-year milestone, Gibson gives all credit to the company’s employees and their dedication to providing a safe and sustainable working environment, while striving to meet the needs of its customers.

“Our success at Manufacturers Chemicals is all about our people and the family environment they find within our facility,” Gibson said. “We also ensure that our workers have every opportunity to advance within the company, which attracts talented individuals from across the country.” 

Several employees who have been with the company for decades echoed his sentiments.

Donald Cheatham, Director of Operations, has been with Manufacturers Chemicals for 31 years and credits his longevity to the company culture.

“I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve worked with over the years,” Cheatham said. “I guess one of the main drivers of my three-plus decades here has been the opportunities I and others have been provided to advance and grow within the company.”

Eighteen-year veteran Kevin Bates previously served as Production Manager at Manufacturers Chemicals and is now serving as Operations Manager at Synalloy’s CRI Tolling facility. He says Synalloy’s dedication to safety, family atmosphere, great opportunities for advancement, and competitive pay and benefits packages are instrumental to his longstanding service to the company.

“Synalloy is the best company I have worked for,” Bates said. “It provides a fun work environment and great team atmosphere, and has an executive team that listens.”

The company also fosters enduring relationships with customers, who express an appreciation for the responsiveness and seamless transition they have seen through the years as the company has continued to grow and evolve.

Ed Rawlings of Process Fluids, Inc. (PFI) has been doing business with Manufacturers Chemicals for nearly a quarter of a century.

“The most important aspect of our relationship with MC is continuity and consistency,” Rawlings said.

He especially noted the smooth transition of three different individuals into the role of president at the company, as well as the commitment to filling open positions from within, that has made working with Manufacturers Chemicals seamless at all levels.

“I believe this commitment has allowed (Manufacturers Chemicals) to provide PFI with consistent and quality products for 25 years,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings was especially complimentary of how Manufacturers Chemicals has always supported PFI’s commitment to meeting the needs of their own customers.

“PFI has always had an extremely positive working relationship with all MC personnel,” he said. “PFI appreciates this relationship and looks forward to the future with MC.”

Frank McDonough, North American Tolling Manager for Ashland Specialty Ingredients, has worked with Manufacturers Chemicals since the 1990s, first with Hercules before it was purchased by Ashland in 2008.

“In 2012, our partnership was greatly expanded when we moved one of our product lines to Manufacturers Chemicals from another supplier,” said McDonough, who managed the transfer and maintains the relationship with Manufacturers Chemicals.

McDonough said the partnership has been a good one because “the entire team, from management to customer service to production to shipping, is very responsive to our needs and requests. I have had a very successful relationship with Synalloy for the last seven years and hope to continue to do so for a long time to come. Congratulations on 100 years!”

100 Years ― “A Remarkable Achievement”

“I believe that, in the times we are in, it is very impressive for a company to make it to 100 years,” Bates said. “Our business is so competitive. It is a daily challenge to make sure our company can remain competitive in the marketplace. This is a remarkable achievement.”

Cheatham is also excited about the upcoming anniversary and where the company is heading.

“Just watching and being a part of the transformation and growth of Manufacturers Chemicals over the years, from where it was when I started to where it is now, has been a great experience,” Cheatham said. “I look forward to the next 30 years to see where we go.”

In contemplating the company’s 100th anniversary, Gibson said, “It really is such a great honor to be part of this organization. Companies that survive 100 years are a special group, and demonstrate a resiliency that not all manufacturers can mimic. 

“Customer focus, being able to adapt into new markets without abandoning its core customers, and forming close relationships with employees and within the communities in which they operate are core pillars to a company’s sustainability,” Gibson said. “However, what I am most proud of is that for 100 years, we have provided a stable, safe, family working environment for the employees and community. We really are a family at Manufacturers Chemicals, and our business decisions reflect that mindset.”

Manufacturers Chemicals will hold its 100th Anniversary celebration at Cleveland Country Club, 345 Kyle Lane, Cleveland, TN 37312, on Thursday, May 16, 2019, beginning at noon. 

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