Amid tough times, one businessman sees huge growth

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – In less than nine months, Bud Hanna has seen his company, South Central Polymers, grow faster than expected.
Not that he’s complaining.
“We had nothing in this building,” said Hanna, SCP’s president and CEO, referring to the facility on Highway 145 North. “We had no molding machines, no customers.”
And not many employees, either.
When Hanna opened SCP on Sept. 3, he had three workers. Today, he has 19 employees and 14 clients, which include furniture, electrical and industrial customers. SCP also is a Tier 3 automotive supplier.
The injection molding company recently completed a 7,000-square-foot expansion, doubling its facility off Highway 145 North. And it plans to add 10 employees in the next two months.
City and county leaders met Wednesday at SCP to celebrate the news.
The company also said it plans to double its full-service tool room and add more workers in 2011.
“My plans are to eventually hire back the 50 people who worked for us before,” said Hanna. “Some of them have gotten other jobs, but we’re going to talk to all of the former workers first, and from there, we’ll look to the outside.”
South Central Polymers, in fact, was out of business for about three months before Hanna revived the company and the name in September.
About a year ago, SCP closed after a somewhat complicated chain of events.
SCP was founded in 1966 and later sold to a group of Booneville businessmen. Hanna, who had started and sold his own plastics business, bought SCP in 1999.
Five years later he sold it to Leggett amp& Platt, but stayed on board with SCP.
“Leggett & Platt saw us as a good fit for their injection molding business,” Hanna said. “But in 2008, they decided to divest from the business and sold it to a private equity firm from New York.”
He stayed on board with the new owners, but according to Hannah, the equity firm wanted to shift operations from Booneville to another plant in Jackson, Tenn.
“I tried to buy the company back, but I was the low bidder,” Hanna said. “The Booneville plant was the most profitable of the two plants – it just wasn’t where they wanted it to be.”
Hanna said he was fired, and the equity firm moved the Booneville operations to Jackson, resulting in the loss of 50 jobs.
But it wasn’t long before old customers called Hanna to see if he was getting back in the injection molding business.
A few months later, Hanna looked into getting his new venture financed, and managed to get South Central Polymers up and running again.
“It was all or nothing,” Hanna said. “There is no plan B. You just have to commit yourself to do it.”
Now with clients including Caterpillar, Daybrite, Emerson, Franklin and Hickory, SCP has established a solid customer base.
“It says a lot about our product and our employees for us to open this business without a customer and then have them come to us like they have,” Hanna said. “It’s truly special.”
When Hanna sold SCP two years ago, the company was generating about $6 million in revenue. He’d like to get back to that point soon, but says business is trending nicely.
“Annualized sales are about $1.4 million, and with our expansion, we’re looking at about $2 million,” he said.
When he opened the business last fall, Hanna was looking at sales around $500,000 to $600,000.
“We’re ahead of where I thought we would be,” he said. “But it’s not me – it’s because of our employees. If it wasn’t for them and our customers, we wouldn’t be here. They’re my partners in all of this … I just happen to be the pack leader.”
Gerald Williams, executive director of the Prentiss County Development Association, said SCP’s expansion might not be big news to some, but it is to Booneville and the county.
“We all like the huge announcements with the huge jobs, but it’s the local people who expand and grow that drive the economy,” he said. “To us, this is a big deal, and Bud is committed to growing his business here. When a company can double in size and add that many employees in less than a year, that’s a very big deal.”
For many, opening a business with no customers might seem to require a big leap of faith.
“But it wasn’t blind faith,” Hanna said. “We had a plan and a vision. It’s to go the customer and show them what we can do and ask if we can do it together. If they say yes, that’s great. If it’s not, then we move on to the next customer.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.