Englewood, Colorado/West Valley City, Utah
Plastic components for industries
West Valley City, Utah
Employees: 210 (205 in Colorado and 5 in Utah)
Founders Carl Byrd, Ron Byrd, and Barry Hart named Caroba after the first two letters of each of their names and set out to supply medical device manufacturers with injection-molded plastic parts. They saw a wide-open market in Colorado.
"We started with 5,000 square feet, two injection-molding machines, and the three of us," says Hart. "We grew fast -- a lot faster than we thought we would."
Today Caroba and its subsidiaries occupy 110,000 square feet and have about 30 injection-molding machines, as well as 6,000 square feet in Utah. The Byrds -- his father-in-law and brother-in-law -- have since left the company.
Caroba continues to supply the medical device industry, and it also supplies the semiconductor industry with specialized plastic parts and cases for manufacturing in clean rooms through its Pozzetta Products subsidiary. "Most of the stuff we do is clean room sensitive," says Hart, noting that semiconductor manufacturers have much more rigorous standards than medical manufacturers. "The discipline of the semiconductor industry puts us way ahead in the medical industry."
Hart launched Pozzetta Products in the 1990s and named the company for its first employee and current president, Marcus Pozzetta. "We have grown that from $10,000 in sales to a $7 million company."
But Pozzetta Products is one of six companies under Caroba's umbrella, along with Pozzetta Scientific, Pozzetta Micro Clean, Pozzetta Specialty Supplies, Boulder Case Co., and Peak. The last is the newest, a fulfillment and third-party logistics business.
"Utah is very business friendly, Colorado's trying to catch up..." Barry Hart
Hart has spun off each of these businesses with a co-owner who acts as president. He always retains 51 percent ownership and the co-owner has 49 percent. "My first partnership was a 50-50 partnership and it didn't work out," he laughs. "There's always a final say and no arguments."
Synergy is key. "The core feeds them and they feed the core," says Hart. Pozzetta Scientific and Pozzetta Specialty Supplies respectively sell clean room consumables and packaging to the same clean rooms that are Pozzetta Products customers.
The primary markets remain the same. "Medical devices are a growing field and have been since I got into it in 1974," says Hart. Same goes for semiconductors, he adds. "Everything is computerized and that will continue."
It all adds up to big growth. Sales have essentially doubled since 2009, as Hart forecasts $25 million in 2015. About 40 percent of sales are exports.
And Hart sees no reason the growth won't continue as the market demand cleaner materials, citing two prime reasons. "More and more people care about what goes into their bodies," he says of the first. The second is nanotechnology. "You can't make it without clean rooms. We're right in the center of that sweet spot."
Hart says he has no plans to retire anytime after more than 40 years in manufacturing. "People ask me all of the time: 'What's your exit strategy?’ I don't have an exit strategy. I plan to keep working."
He says a lot of this is because of Caroba's hub-and-spoke model. "I'm not the centerpiece of the company anymore. Twenty years ago, I was critical. Now I'm just another player."
Challenges: "Healthcare," says Hart. "It's a challenge because it isn't defined. We're trying to go from employer-based healthcare to government healthcare. There are pitfalls and holes all over the place."
Opportunities: Growth by reshoring. Labor issues at West Coast ports and long lead times have helped greased the skids. "A lot of the bigger stuff is coming back because of shipping costs," says Hart. This dovetails into Caroba recently investing in a 900-ton injection molding machine. The previous high end was a 400-ton machine.
Utah and Texas are opportunities. Hart says he plans to start manufacturing in Utah by 2017, after expanding Peak to the Beehive State next year. Getting a space with access to the city's intermodal -- Caroba has a rail spur in Englewood -- is key. "Utah is very business friendly, Colorado's trying to catch up, and Texas loves business," says Hart. "Colorado isn't anti-business, it's more neutral -- especially for manufacturing."
Needs: Employees. "If somebody walks in, they get interviewed," says Hart. "If they're qualified, they work. It didn't used to be that way." New entrants in the workforce "don't know it because it was lost in China for so many years," he adds. "There used to be 55 companies from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs who did plastic injection molding. Now that's down to 15." He says many more molding machines are now sold in Utah than are in Colorado.