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Rochester Chamber Top 100: Firm finds customization its key to success

Rochester Business Journal
December 16, 2016

Supplying the materials and customization needed to protect and support America’s military is an opportunity T&T Materials Inc. thrives on.

“Where we do shine, or where we are strong, or where we have been very successful, is in the more complex and difficult materials,” said James Mossgraber, vice president and general manager.  “We’re very much into the customized; most of our competition—they don’t want to deal with that. That’s not a criticism, that’s their business model.”

T&T Materials is a wholesale metals distributor based at 1225 Ridgeway Ave. The company employs four people and expects to add another staffer in 2017.

“What we’re selling is our expertise,” Mossgraber said. “What we’re selling is our ability to provide our customer with precisely what you want, compliant to every specification and every standard that you have. We’re not the off-the-rack, we’re the tailor.”

The company was founded a decade ago, and the mission has remained the same: supporting the U.S. Department of Defense.

“I do not foresee any radical departures from our company’s core competencies,” said James Terhune, president and CEO. “We have built our reputation and earned our customers’ trust on being a dependable, resourceful and knowledgeable supplier of raw materials—principally metals.”

The projects T&T Materials embarks on are usually complex and distinct. It distributes a variety of materials, including carbon alloys, aluminum, brass, nickel alloys, aerospace metals, titanium and plastics.

“Our business model depends entirely on the successful development and management of our supply chain,” Terhune said. “The continuing challenge is to work effectively with our suppliers to maintain a superior level of performance that supports our customers’ expectations.”

The company’s revenue rose by 20 percent in 2013 and 85 percent in 2015. In 2014, however, revenue fell 40 percent as a result of defense spending sequestration, company officials said. The company projects growth of 10 percent in 2016.

“It’s been very chaotic; it’s been very up and down,” Mossgraber said. “Sequestration in the Department of Defense budget—that period was very difficult for us. At that juncture... a lot of manufacturing facilities went into the bunker mentality mode.

“It’s all about what Washington thinks they need to do as far as defense spending” is concerned.

This year, the company’s focus has been to grow through existing customers, expanding its reach within a company’s divisions. The decision has helped to both steady growth and allow the company to adapt with the changes in government spending.

“If you’re successful with one of the divisions of a large multinational corporation that sells to the DOD, then it would seem likely that you would then be able to take those credentials to another division,” Mossgraber said. “It’s not the golden ticket to get you into everything, but it at least gets you noticed and serious consideration.”

In 2017, the company plans to get its Qualified Suppliers List of Distributors certification from the Defense Logistics Agency that ensures it operates at a quality level set by DOD. It also sets the firm apart from others.

Even with differentiation to stay competitive, defense spending in the next few years is an uncertainty, Mossgraber said.

“With the new administration, it will be interesting to see what happens,” he says. “The Trump campaign talked about rebuilding the military: ‘we’re going to make the military bigger, better, stronger’… Those are campaign promises. I’ll be waiting to see what happens.

“That’s not a political statement—that’s not pro or against the new administration—it’s simply a reality that ‘where’s the money going to come from?’”

T&T Materials Inc.
A metals distribution company
Year founded: 2006
Top executive: James Terhune, president and CEO  
Current employment: 4
2016 ranking: 52
Headquarters: Rochester

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 2017 Rochester Top 100 event is slated to be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to

12/16/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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