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Rochester Top 100: Tough times helped shape the firm's success

Rochester Business Journal
October 21, 2016

With two strikes against it, Century Mold Co. Inc. managed to hit a home run twice.

First, the injection molding firm managed to prosper while most of the U.S. tool and die and machining industry struggled under competition from Chinese and other foreign rivals whose low labor costs no U.S. firm could match.

That success was threatened in the deep recession of the previous decade. But when the dust settled, the firm emerged stronger than before.

“2008 and 2009 was not a fun place to be,” Century Mold CEO Ronald Ricotta recalled.  

He and Century Mold executive vice president Michael Nuccitelli acquired the then-struggling plastics firm in 1992 and rode out the early 1990s recession by building an auto-industry customer base.

By the mid-2000s, their efforts had borne fruit. Then came 2008 and the recession.

As new-car sales plunged in that downturn, Nuccitelli said, Century Mold had to cut staff by more than half from some 800 to less than 400.

The firm has more than rebounded. It now employs more than 1,000 at five North American plants. U.S. facilities include its Gates plant and headquarters office. It also has manufacturing facilities in Tennessee and Ohio and engineering offices in Tennessee and Detroit.

Mexican manufacturing facilities in Chihuahua and Queretaro round out the Century Mold portfolio. The company at one time had a plant in China but gave it up. The time difference made it too hard to run, Ricotta said.

Ricotta anticipates the firm’s 2016 revenue will show a 6 percent increase, coming in at about $160 million.

Ricotta and Nuccitelli pin the plastics firm’s success in the face of adversity on two main strategies: locating plants near customers and concentrating on vital components.

While parts supplied by Century Mold go into three-quarters of vehicles manufactured in the United States, the company does not directly sell to carmakers, Ricotta said. Rather it sells to suppliers of equipment to carmakers.

It is a slice of the automotive market that developed as cars grew increasingly complex, making it less and less practical for car companies to fashion every part that goes into a vehicle.

Ricotta and Nuccitelli sought to ensure Century Mold’s survival and widen its growth opportunities by identifying particularly vital but hard-to-produce parts and learning how to make them efficiently.

Their company got good enough at it to become the almost sole supplier of the parts it supplies.

The 2008 recession was a turning point for Century Mold, Nuccitelli said. While the plastics company hunkered down, it also looked for opportunity and found it in the two Mexican plants, which it was able to acquire in a post-recession climate that saw North American auto sales halved. Two of the largest U.S. automakers arguably survived only because they got government help.

Like Century Mold’s U.S. plants, which are strategically located near the auto-parts makers they sell to, the firm’s Mexican facilities are near car-part manufacturers that sell to the Mexican market, thus avoiding big shipping bills.

Correctly forecasting Mexican auto sales’ rebound, Century Mold was able to buy the Mexican facilities at a good price when the market was down and ride the rebound up when it came, Nuccitelli said.

Century Mold’s banker, Theodore Smith, credits the management team’s grasp of the company’s costs and canny reading of the automotive market for Century Mold’s success.

“Not every manufacturer understands their costs,” Smith said, “Ron Ricotta’s understanding of the market goes down to the particular vehicle.” Smith is M&T Bank administrative vice president and group manager.

As long as automakers continue to turn out cars and trucks, Ricotta sees the injection molding firm positioned to prosper in good times but also able to ride out future market fluctuations or economic downturns for one simple reason: “If we don’t supply it, the car doesn’t get made.”

The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2016 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 3. For more information, go to greaterrochesterchamber.com.

Century Mold Co. Inc.
Plastics injection molder
Year founded: 1979
Top executive: Ronald Ricotta, CEO
Employment: 1,008
(158 Rochester area)
2015 ranking: 43
Headquarters: Gates
Website: centurymold.com

10/21/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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