Chamber Chat – 2021 Small Industry of the Year

October 17, 2021 | Written by: sanford-user

By Meg Moss, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

At the recent Sanford Area Growth Alliance seventh annual meeting, John Cotton Dean, SAGA’s economic development manager, presented the 2021 Small Industry Award. This award honors a local business that grew up here, has less than one hundred employees and has made major contributions to the economic success and vitality of the community and the region.

This year’s small industry honoree manufactures products that make other products stronger, providing world class research and development services and high-quality manufacturing solutions for a wide variety of end users. These end users include, but are not limited to suppliers of roofing material, medical equipment, food and beverages. Initially established in Lee County twenty years ago as the US base of operations for a business located nearly a third of the way around the globe, strategic changes at the parent organization a decade ago created the opportunity for members of the local team to make the business their own. That business is STI Polymer. They make the products that “hold things together” …such as the glue on your cereal box, or the adhesive on your roofing shingles.

Now locally owned and operated, the significant advantages of STI’s business model have become even more apparent than before in a year characterized by massive global supply chain disruptions. End users of STI’s industrial raw materials depend on their timely delivery of quality material for their own business success.

From an initial workforce of about twenty associates, STI has expanded to nearly eighty skilled local team members. The owners credit their dedicated and talented workforce for much of their success, but have also relied on the strong economic development mindset by local community leaders as well as the strengths of the local physical infrastructure.

STI Polymer been an investor in SAGA since its inception, and are strong supporters of local educational institutions as well. STI Polymer is also an active member of local manufacturer’s groups like the Lee County Industrial Park Tenant’s Group, and the Central Carolina Society for Human Resource Management. But the company’s community engagement reached a whole new level during the COVID pandemic.

STI had well-developed contingency plans that could be implemented quickly to successfully surmount the initial challenges of the pandemic, and they chose not to keep those plans to themselves. As initial stay-at-home-orders brought some local manufacturing operations to a complete halt, STI’s human resources director, Darrell Parker, reached out to colleagues across Lee County and convened a virtual confab to discuss best practices; and “HR Managers versus COVID-19” was born.

The spirit of collaboration and innovation which drives STI’s leaders is further embodied in its annual Kaizen awards, “Kai” – Change “Zen” – Good, presented to company employees’ whose ideas significantly impact the company’s success in four key areas, which include “people, process, profit and safety”.

For their contributions to the local economy and business life of our community, as well as their broader impact on the market for synthetic polymer emulsions, SAGA was pleased to award the 2021 Small Industry Award to STI Polymer.