Profile Custom Extrusion has just celebrated its 60th anniversary in Rome and David Newby said he believes its best years may yet be ahead.
Profile landed in Rome in 1960 under the ownership of V.E. Anderson, the window-making industrial giant. Anderson spun the plant in Rome off to Alcan, which later sold the facility to a private entrepreneur, Jim Phillips, in 1994.
Phillips sold it to Highlander Partners, a private equity firm based in Dallas, Texas, in 2014.
Newby, its president and CEO manager, said Highlander Partners has nearly $2 billion in assets but manufacturing is not the emphasis for the investors.
The company allowed the plant to keep the Rome name but did tweak it from Profile Extrusion to Profile Custom Extrusion.
“We have three presses,” Newby said. “Two of them out there are state of the art. The first one, purchased in 2006, really helped the company get through the recession.”
Aside from state-of-the-art technology, Newby said he couldn’t be any more proud of his employees. Today, the Profile workforce is at 180. Going into the recession, which hit his industry in 2007, Newby said Profile had 126 employees, the largest number ever. That dipped to just 56 at the peak of the recession but rebounded quickly.
“We were told we would never be able to get back to pre-recessionary levels,” Newby said. “Well, we didn’t get to 126, we’ve come back to 180.”
Many of the employees at Profile have been with the company for over 20 years, some well into three decades. Newby has been with the company for 41 years.
Paul Austin is president of the United Auto Workers Local 1103, which represents employees at the plant. He has been with Profile for 22 years and head of the union for almost three. Austin said the relationship between Profile and the union is “very good” and the workforce and management are more like one big family.
“We’ve got a good core workforce out there and they’ve stayed with us,” Newby said. “We have a reputation with the United Auto Workers. I’ve been here since 1984 at this plant and we’ve never had a grievance go to arbitration.”
For many years, the company was primarily an extruder of aluminum for windows and doors. Today, the product line is much more diverse. That diversity is something that Newby said was hugely beneficial in getting through the recession.
The company worked with two presses for over half of its existence in Rome. It purchased a third used press in 1998 from a company in Alabama, refurbished it, and the Rome plant really started to grow. Physically, the plant expanded and increased its capacity to ship product from just two loading bays up to eight.
The old presses were manufactured to last, not necessarily to go fast and the market had become much more competitive, so the sole owner Phillips went out and bought a new one in 2006.
“We were told that we had made a mistake buying the new press,” Newby said. “What we found out was that it was our salvation.”
The company was able to turn out product more quickly and less expensively, and Profile started to gain market share.
“If we had not had the new press, we would not have been able to survive the recession,” Newby said.
Overall, the company lost a third of its business in 2007. But, during the recession, the new press had proven itself so Phillips invested in a second new one.
“Our philosophy was that we could curl up in a ball and let the waves of the recession wash over us, or we could be standing on our surfboard and wait on the wave that we assume eventually would come. So we chose the latter and made the investment,” Newby said.
The second new press was cranked up in January of 2102 and the plant hasn’t slowed down since.
And they’ve completely removed the two original presses, so the stand-up-on-the-surfboard philosophy has worked well.
Apart from the technology, Newby returned to the workforce and a customer first philosophy for the continuing growth over the last decade.
During a sit down with Newby, he pulled out a 2020 survey of customers and read a comment that said “Profile is not a supplier, they’re just someone we have at our back door servicing our needs. They’re more like family. When you call in you get a person, you don’t get a recording.”
When the company started out with Anderson, aluminum for doors and windows was the primary focus. It’s now less than 20% if Profile’s product line.
Equipment used in heating and air conditioning systems is now a huge part of the company’s work. Marine products, boat docks and boat trailer parts also are a major line. Profile also makes a lot of hurricane shutter blades, which are shipped to the Florida market, along with aluminum floor grating, ladder trays and conduit for electrical lines.
In the last year, the company also has started to do a lot of work for manufacturers of recreational vehicles.
“RVs are strong right now because people are finding the outdoors, so we supply the RV industry as well,” Newby said.
They also make product for windows that go into buses.
Aluminum itself is getting tight. The domestic market for aluminum has shrunk considerably over the years and much of the raw aluminum comes from suppliers in Argentina, Qatar, Bahrain and India.
China was a huge player but was caught dumping aluminum during the recession.
“They were shipping it below cost,” Newby said.
The International Trade Commission unanimously determined domestic manufacturers were damaged and slapped tariffs, which still exist, on China. Then, the Aluminum Extruders Council recently noticed an extruder in the Dominican Republic shipping out more aluminum than they had capacity to do.
“China was going through them and shipping to the US, so they’ve been caught again,” Newby said. “China is unscrupulous.”
Profile shipped out more than 35 million tons of product last year. Newby said that was up a good bit over 2019 and he’s looking to increase those numbers again in 2021.