Master Group is the holding company for two corporations: Master Paints and Master Products. Master Group, based in Toa Baja, with additional manufacturing facilities in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, was founded in 2005. However, the company’s subsidiaries have a much longer history in the area. Master Group has about 290 employees between the two divisions. Ricardo Cardona, owner and president of Master Group, believes the extensive training all Master Group employees receive is what sets the company apart.
Cardona initially launched in the construction materials business in 1985 working in the quarry industry. From there, Cardona grew an interest in the concrete business and refocused his efforts. Cardona purchased Master Products from Empresas Master in 2005, then becoming part of what is now known as Master Group.
Today, Master Products is a leading manufacturer and distributor of packaged concrete and related products, licensed under the Quikrete brand. However, the company also manufactures other products under the Master brand.
Master Products produces a variety of products, which include: Concrelisto, Pronto Mix Mortar Mix, thin sets and grouts, resurfacing products, sand bags, gravel bags, sealers, whitewash and hydraulic cement. Master Products distributes Pittsburgh Corning glass block line and the Dow Corning sealers, corner beads and metal studs, as well.
But that wasn’t enough for Cardona. He also purchased Vassallo Paints in 1999, which included the VAPCO and Armstrong Paints brands, which is now recognized as Guayanilla-based Master Paints. Master Paints manufactures acrylic- and oil-based paint and lime-based protective coatings under the Master, Armstrong, Masterflex, Covertex, EZ Clean, Eternaflex, Dry Roof, Eco Pure Paints, Vassguard, Dry Wall, Restaura and Luxury 2 in 1 Paints brand names.
Master Group U
In order to train employees adequately, Master Group has developed something like a university for its employees. “We supply Master Partners to every store that sells our paint products,” details Cardona. “We believe and we know that to provide a service in a store and to push for the higher end products we sell, there needs to be a person who is highly trained.”
For employees of Master Group, training adds up to about 100 hours annually for these employees. According to Cardona, the university teaches how to sell products, deal with customers, deal with objects and make presentation look welcoming. Some of the partners that Master Group sends to stores have been with the company for more than 10 years.
Recently, Master Group sent the company’s lead color and design expert trainer to Sweden to participate in Natural Colour System’s (NCS) educational program. NCS establishes the color standards worldwide for designers, artists and manufacturers. The program’s goal is to help those in attendance improve color communication, knowledge and awareness, which in turn helps when working with customers to develop a color for their needs.
“We sent one person to Sweden to get the training,” says Cardona. “When they come back it will be like train the trainer to help all our staff gain knowledge.” Master Paints’ trainer became the first NCS Certified Trainer in America, and will train all Master Partners in the NCS color standards.
Cutting Edge Performance
Master Group has made a concerted effort to create an energy efficient business in both divisions. Most recently, Master Paints received a warehouse addition that included the installation of solar panels on the roof, becoming the world’s first ever paint manufacturing facility powered 100 percent by solar energy.
“It’s an interesting little building project we did,” says Cardona. “It’s all prefabricated concrete and the floors are made with steel fibers. We knew from the initial phase of the design we wanted to go with solar panels. Now we’re producing more energy than we consume. And that additional energy is resold to the government at a much lower cost than regular electricity, while also contributing funds to improve the island’s public education school system.”
But the building itself isn’t where Master Paint stops. The company produces paints that contain low or no amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are emitted as gases from some paints that have been thought to cause short- and long-term adverse health effects. By eliminating these compounds, Master Group is making a safer product for all customers.
Master Paint’s Eco Pure, the first zero-VOC 100 percent acrylic paint manufactured in Puerto Rico, became one of five paints worldwide approved by Green Seal through a rigorous laboratory and manufacturing audit.
Painting a Smile
As a company, Master Group is dedicated to the community where it’s headquartered, and Puerto Rico in general. For example, Master Paint donates paint and service to community organizations in need. “We believe that paint brings joy and once you get joy in your life you can take your life forward,” says Cardona.
Master Group budgets about $80,000 annually in materials in paint for donations. In addition, Cardona estimates staff at Master Group has helped paint over 800,000 square feet. “We are firm believers that giving is better than receiving,” he says.
The Master Group team is also firm believers in keeping the business running despite hardships. Despite its location in Puerto Rico and the fact that most of its products are sold within the country, Master Group was affected by the economic downturn in the United States.
Cardona estimates there was 60 percent less raw material for cement production imported during 2008, 2009 and 2010. “We were hit because of the downturn,” says Cardona. “That was a challenge, but we handled it by being more efficient and hanging on.”
Cardona’s positive attitude is contagious. “Our people are ambassadors for our philosophy,” he continues. “We were able to get the message to our clients about who we are and what we do through them. That helped us weather through things.” As the company continues to grow, Master Group will continue to serve its community and provide quality products and services to its customers through both Master Paints and Master Products.
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