Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TOP STORY >> Pros, colleges, others floored by small firm

Leader staff writer

The chairman of a successful floor-finishing company in Jacksonville was recently recognized as a distinguished alumnus by the University of Arkansas College of Engineering.

North Little Rock native Mac Hogan of PoloPlaz, 1 Paradise Road, has been doing business in Jacksonville for more than 40 years. He graduated in 1966 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

PoloPlaz coats 70 percent of the National Basketball Association’s arenas. The company also did the finishing for several Olympic sports courts, the Arkansas Razorbacks and other college-arena floors, Hogan said.

He and two partners, J.C. George and the late Dave Goins, bought National Coatings in 1988 after they invested in real estate and rented space to National Coatings.

The three men became interested in the company because “they weren’t doing real well. It had a lot of prospects for growth. Hardwood flooring is a fad almost,” Hogan said.

National Coatings had one employee when they took over. PoloPlaz was the brand of products it manufactured, but customers began to refer to the company by that name.

In 2006, National Coatings became PoloPlaz, which now employs about 20 people. Goins died recently, and George is no longer involved with the company.

Hogan said, “We’ve done real well. Last year was our biggest year ever, saleswise. It’s a healthy company,” Hogan said.

He said most of PoloPlaz’s business comes from schools that have public funds, and that money is still available despite the hit the private sector has taken during the recession.

An inventor at heart, Hogan attributes the continued success of PoloPlaz to a tradition of innovation.

“There’s a lot of competition. We’ve got innovative products and really responsive service. If someone wants the product, they get it in a hurry. We don’t make ’em wait,” he said.

PoloPlaz’s main competitors are Sweden-based Bona Kemi and American Fortune 500 company Sherwin-Williams.

Hogan’s company is also the only one in the gymnasium/sports courts floor finishing industry to provide graphic-images paint, which acts like a primer. It allows logos, like an Arkansas Razorback or team name, to be sealed in underneath a finished gym floor.

Schools with sports teams don’t have to go to two different companies for both products. PoloPlaz can be their one-stop shop.

The company has a high-market share in gymnasium/sports floors, especially for new construction, and a respectable share of the residential/commercial market, where most of its products are used in the remodeling of older homes.

Finishing floors “is a complicated process, and it allows us to innovate and provide products that satisfy a need,” Hogan explained.

One new item “locks mulch in place,” according to its packaging. Hogan said the coating protects mulch being used in flowerbeds from erosion by water.

PoloPlaz is looking to see how well the new product sells, he said.

One invention that has been very successful, Hogan said, is PoloPlaz’s one-quart bags of finish. He explained that some states don’t allow the sale of finish in gallons.

Before, the company had to sell products in one-quart cans, but the popular bags are much easier to work with.

“Introducing new products is always a challenge. You’ve got to be smart enough, nimble enough, to take a product to an established market and get part of the market share. If you know innovation or have a desirable feature and can communicate it, you can be successful,” Hogan said.

PoloPlaz is developing a new product now and plans to set up an office in Texas, which is where Hogan spends half his time.

About 15 to 20 percent of PoloPlaz’s business is international. It sells products in 10 countries. China buys the most and Canada is also a big customer.

The company does its best business in the Midwest — Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee — Hogan said.

Products are sold on the company’s website, through distributors that provide flooring and directly to construction contractors.

PoloPlaz World Class Finish for sports floors costs $135 for a five-gallon pail and the water base finish is $285. Its floor cleaner is $85 for a five-gallon pail, $40 for a case of six one-quart spray bottles and $80 for a case of four one-gallon bottles.

PoloPlaz tests products on wood flooring, applying them in a four-coat finishing process.

“We can put it on concrete, but principally we do (wood) floors,” Hogan said. “You can’t make something without (testing).”

Hogan started off as an engineer at his now-neighbor AGL, 2202 N. Redmond Road in Jacksonville. AGL supplies construction customers with precision pipe lasers and receivers, depth control systems and other precision control methods.

Hogan bought into AGL and became a junior partner there. He spent 17 years with that company before selling his share in 1985.

In addition to his role in PoloPlaz, Hogan is a partner in Air Tech Coatings.

According to the company’s website, Air Tech was founded in 1981 to introduce polyurethane technology into the aircraft fabric-covering industry.

The technology offered toughness and flexibility, fire resistance, chemical resistance and the polyurethane “wet look” in a large variety of colors, which could be used on metal, fabric, and fiberglass so the entire aircraft would be finished in the same color.

Chad Baker is the president of PoloPlaz and also owns Air Tech.

Hogan said, “We’re glad to be in Jacksonville. We’ve always enjoyed it here.”