Prime-Line Inc. (PLI) is a growing family-owned and -operated business based in Malvern, Ark. Brian Feeney, second-generation owner and president of PLI, took over the company when his father fell ill. “I didn’t take many business classes,” Brian explains, “But a lot of succeeding in business is psychology. You have to learn how to deal with people. If you can’t communicate, you won’t succeed in this industry. My father started this business in 1996 as a manufacturer’s representative. When he started out there were only four employees, but they developed a strong line and the company grew.”
PLI has become a leading national supplier of light-density and medium-density fiberboard products, including shelving, molding and custom millwork for commercial and residential applications. With an in-house team of 55, PLI serves clients from Denver eastward.
Casting a Broad Net
According to Brian, the company does not market directly to builders. “We sell our products through distributors who have people on the ground talking to customers,” he details.
When builders pick up a project that requires custom millwork, they talk to those distributors about sourcing. Distributors turn specifications around to Brian and his team, who then design and manufacture the components. As for the company’s shelving and molding products, PLI has established a market presence through major retailers, including Lowes, as well as smaller independent home improvement stores and lumberyards across the country.
“About 95 percent of what we do goes in two-step distribution,” says Brian. “We produce every item out of light- and medium-density fiberboard. We recently created components for the Margaritaville Casino in Bossier City, La. We get a drawing of what the architect wants the component to be. We make that come to life. We utilize special knives and tools to manufacture the exact profiles they are looking for.”
Another recent project the team tackled was for the Grand Disney Resort at Disney World. On a similar premise to the Margaritaville work, PLI worked closely with architects to create unique and captivating components to introduce as architectural features. The team has also done a lot of remodel work for the Marriott chain, as well as for Ritz Carlton.
“Again, we do not work directly with those guys, always through a third party,” Brian says. “Almost 100 percent of the time, there is some kind of architectural drawing we are matching and making. Marriott uses similar styles in various locations, although they do vary.”
According to Brian, maintaining the leading edge on MDF component fabrication boils down to investing in new equipment. The business installed a new manufacturing line and a new painting system in 2004. At the end of 2011, PLI put in an automated materials-handling line that made the company even more efficient. A standard, unaltered panel more or less goes in one end of the line and comes out as primed molding.
The crew is also capable of working with a variety of substrate materials, although time and cost constraints often prevent clients from seeking the higher-end materials. “Different products require different processes,” Brian explains. “Many of those materials, such as Eco Trim, allow builders to gain full LEED certification points. Those materials are somewhat new, but we have done some work with them for military bases.”
Throughout the recession, PLI has remained strong. However, foreign competition and shrinking opportunities have been tough on the business. Therefore, communication and flexibility have played important roles in the company’s continued growth. “We can do it all,” Brian elaborates. “We are the lowest cost alternative out there for a primed ready-to-paint product for your house. All of our materials are recycled and we offer some of the greenest products on the market.”
Additionally, PLI has established a strong product base. Therefore, in addition to stability and experience, PLI continues to attract new business. Due to fairly standard processes, the company can afford to innovate. When clients are looking for something special, such as varied materials for LEED-certified rating, it is known that PLI can take care of those needs.
In the coming years, Brian has his eyes on growth; he and his team are taking opportunities as they come. Within half a decade, PLI has the potential to double in size, and the team has a number of complex projects lined up for 2014, which promises to be a good year. As the market turns around, Prime-Line Inc. is ready to pick up the slack with a strong record of quality and increasingly efficient operations going into the New Year.
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