SASCO wins Global Commerce Award

DC announces 2012 Industry Award Winners

Press release from the issuing company

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission announced today the winners of the 2012 EDC Industry Awards, part of Albany-Dougherty Industry Celebration Week.

The winners of the 2012 EDC Industry Awards* are:

  • Global Commerce: SASCO Chemical Group

2012 EDC Industry Awards: Criteria & Winners: 

Global Commerce: SASCO Chemical Group


 The company’s primary market area(s)

  • Global exports over the past three years
  • Percentage of export sales as a percentage of total sales
  • Utilization of federal/state export assistance programs or services from banks

When brothers Marc and Rusty Skalla bought the family chemical business in 2009, they had a dream: to go big.

The company was started in Albany in 1948 by Ernst Skalla, a German immigrant chemist who set up shop on Pine Avenue in downtown Albany with three workers. It was bought my brothers Lan and Randy Skalla in 1972; by then the company was focused mostly in the auto- and rubber-related industries.

Since the third-generation took the reigns, SASCO has expanded into new markets, revisited old industries, invested millions into an expanded corporate and manufacturing facility, purchased and designed new equipment, and has gone global.

In 2011, through assistance from the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and the Georgia Department of Economic Development, SASCO was able to make headway in numerous new markets, including Mexico.

Part of the strategy is “being a key player worldwide, instead of just in the United States and Canada, like we have been in the past. There’s a lot of concentration in Central and South America,” said SASCO COO Rusty Skalla.

In 2011, SASCO exports increased by 120 percent; exports to Mexico specifically increased by 2,700 percent.

“We shipped our first container to Venezuela last week, and we have some guys in Spain,” said Skalla, who estimates that 2012 exports will be “300-400 percent over” what they were last year.

With fresh leads, a new innovation and technology center and distributors throughout the world, SASCO’s at a turning point.

“We really have ourselves in a position to where we can grow and expand how we want to,” Skalla said.

Exports Keep Factories Rooted in South Georgia

An aircraft manufacturer teaches maintenance to a visitor from Cameroon. A chemical firm affixes Portuguese labels to Brazil-bound tubs. Across town, posters at a health products factory pitch their soothing powers in German.

All of these stories were playing out during a recent Global Atlanta tour of Albany with Next Generation Manufacturing, the southwest Georgia city better known for its fields than factories.

Here, MillerCoors beer is brewed, Mars chocolate is mixed and paper products are produced for consumer giant Procter & Gamble. But southwest Georgia has seen some factories flee overseas, and its host of smaller manufacturers are now learning the duality of the global economy with which local farmers of pines, pecans and peanuts have long been acquainted. On one hand, international integration brings more customers. On the other, it means increased competition.

Exports have become the lifeblood of Thrush Aircraft Inc., a company that could be considered new relative to its long history. In 2003, investors acquired the Albany factory and assets of the defunct Ayres Corp., which had made multiple models of Thrush’s agricultural spraying aircraft in a 227,000-square-foot building next to the Albany airport.

The firm’s renaissance has led to 180 current jobs, and plans are under way to bring 100 more over the next few years with the addition of a production line backed by a $200,000 job-creation grant from the Albany Job Investment Fund, a city program.

The city has buyers all over the world to thank.

“Eighty percent of our business is outside the United States, so exporting is everything,” said Payne Hughes, Thrush’s president, who in an interview highlighted efforts to diversify the company’s product mix.

While its planes have traditionally been used to apply fertilizers or pesticides across wide swaths of farmland, they can do much more than cropdusting (a practice the industry now prefers to call “aerial application”).

Thrush has designed a new gate-box attachment to help douse forest fires, giving owners a newfound versatility that could help justify the cost of a plane, which can run from about $700,000 to $1 million. It’s also building planes purposed for military surveillance, a product that caught the eye of the United Arab Emirates. The Middle Eastern nation ordered 24 of what some have called “militarized crop-dusters.” After being built in Albany, they’re shipped to IOMAX in North Carolina to be turned into Archangels, outfitted with assets like precision optics and missile systems.

“They’ve got more electronics in a plane than you can shake a stick at,” said Mr. Hughes, who added that they monitor borders with more flexibility and less upfront investment than unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones.

Of course, cropdusting hasn’t gone away, especially as farms grow bigger and become more mechanized around the world. Spraying is banned in Europe, but it’s common on the banana farms of Central America and in the sugar cane and soybean fields of Brazil, a burgeoning market where Thrush has sent planes painted with green and yellow of the South American country’s flag.

“The agricultural industry is going very high-tech, and as it does get more high-tech, our products will get more and more high-tech,” he said. The firm doesn’t disclose revenues, but Mr. Hughes said they’ve doubled over the last five years.

China is also getting into the act: In July 2013, 20 Thrush planes were purchased by a state-owned company in the northeastern city of Harbin as part of a $55.6 million package that included U.S.-made tractors, combines and helicopters.

Overcoming Hurdles

But Thrush and others have found that reaching abroad isn’t always easy, and one problem is financing the orders when they come in.

Thrush’s China deal was backed by the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which provides credit to foreign buyers of U.S. goods, insures transactions and guarantees export loans by private banks and companies. The bank has been the subject of heated debate in Washington over the last year. At the end of June, Congress let its charter expire. It’s still limping along while awaiting a reauthorization vote, servicing existing loans without the ability to extend any new credit or guarantees. Some senators have said a highway bill coming up for a vote at the end of July would be a logical place to tack on Ex-Im for a vote.

A tell-it-like-it-is Georgia conservative, Mr. Hughes doesn’t seem like one to back an institution some influential Republicans have derided as a conduit for corporate welfare. He says he’s all for less government but that Ex-Im has plugged a gap in the private sector, insuring deals in places like Kenya, where Thrush first used Ex-Im in 2010. Buyers in such markets don’t have the same capital sources, and private banks and financiers can’t provide insurance for orders over $1 million.

If that weren’t enough, Ex-Im simply matches what other countries are already doing, he said.

“If we don’t do it somebody else will,” Mr. Hughes said.

Another Albany exporter, SASCO Chemical, takes a similar stance on the bank.

“Whether you fundamentally agree with the program or not, the U.S. cannot be the only country without this program. There are currently 67-ish other countries with the same program that U.S. manufacturers compete against every day. One thing we cannot have in the current times is the government taking tools away that makes us competitive,” said Marc Skalla, president of SASCO.

SASCO has been lauded for its use of state and federal resources to boost global trade, which the company says has supported growth at home. SASCO has a research center in Macon, a global sales center in Atlanta and an expanding manufacturing base in Albany.

SASCO’s main product is PolyCoat, a chemical used to keep rubber from sticking to machines used in tire manufacturing. In 2011, the Georgia Department of Economic Development helped introduce the company to the Mexican market, leading to a huge increase in sales there. Last year, SASCO received the President’s E Award for Exports from the U.S. Commerce Department. The current director of sales, Ed Juline, was recruited from a position Mexico.

Now, about 10 percent of the company’s sales go to places like Brazil, South Africa and Central America, and its export proportion is growing despite international headwinds, Mr. Skalla said.

Even before Ex-Im’s expiration, the company was hit by the dollar’s appreciation against both the euro and Brazilian real, which made SASCO’s products more expensive for buyers and gave a relative cost advantage to its main competitor, a European firm.

Meanwhile, SASCO was investing in boosting competitiveness at home. It launched its own trucking arm to gain more control over logistics, and it’s now finishing out a 40,000-square-foot factory in Albany, just a few streets over from its current Pine Avenue complex. That facility will support two new product categories: colorants for mulch and an anti-adhesive agent used in engineered wood production.

“We are always innovating at home in a search for continued diversification,” Mr. Skalla said.

Arguing for ‘Made in the USA’ 

While SASCO is an independent, family-owned firm, some other local manufacturers have had to prove themselves in a broader corporate context.

International pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer Inc. operates under the same 200-acre roof as Procter & Gamble’s massive Albany facility, but the two plants are separated by a wall representing the corporate lineage of the ThermaCare line of heat wraps.

Pfizer inherited the product when it acquired Wyeth, which had bought it from P&G. ThermaCare represents more than $100 million in annual sales for Pfizer’s consumer health care unit, and Albany is the only place in the world ThermaCare is made.

Jim Donovan, site leader in Albany, said ThermaCare is now available in 25 countries, and outside the saturated U.S. is where it’s is seeing the most growth. New releases of menstrual and flex-use wraps in Germany are shattering forecasts. Demand continues to build in international markets with recent launches in Russia, and multiple Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries are set to see ThermaCare introduced this year.

But that international success cuts both ways: The more sales move abroad, the more the factory has to prove to company executives there is no better “central hub” for production than Albany. In the face of global competition, employees understand how important it is to keep things efficient at a factory that cranks out 50 million wraps per year, Mr. Donovan said.

“Theres’s a significant amount of engagement to ensure everyone puts in their efforts to ensure the site remains competitive,” he said, noting accolades the plant has won within the Pfizer system for employee engagement. “Everybody knows that there’s a constant external threat.”

Pfizer is a prime example of how global brands can compete from Albany, says Barbara Rivera Holmes, vice president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and interim president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Aside from being relevant to the consumer, industries need to be innovative, efficient and profitable, and from Albany, they can be. Low overall costs of doing business, partnered with a talent pool from which to draw and the infrastructure to move product, allows Albany industries to compete with their corporate peers and with other industries,” she told Global Atlanta.

The community is also getting its 15 biggest manufacturers to talk to each other through an industry roundtable where they gather each month to share challenges and best practices. The sessions also allow them to speak with one voice to economic development community.

“It’s an incredible program in that it harnesses the scale of industry to say, collectively, ‘This is what we need’ or ‘This is how we can give back,’” Ms. Holmes said.

As for exports, the community connects its companies with resources at the state level: The Georgia Department of Economic Development operates 11 trade and investment offices in 10 countries worldwide.

Posted: July 23rd, 2015 | Permalink

U.S. Trade Gap Widens on Surging Imports


Eric Morath

The Wall Street Journal

 WASHINGTON—A stronger dollar and an influx of pent-up imports into West Coast ports are pointing the U.S. economy toward its third quarterly contraction in its six-year-long expansion, reflecting choppy conditions that appear set to restrain growth throughout the year.

The nation’s trade deficit expanded by 43.1% in March from February, the largest monthly widening since 1996, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. A record level of non-petroleum imports flowed into the U.S. after a labor dispute at West Coast ports ended, causing the seasonally adjusted trade gap to widen to $51.37 billion.

That was significantly larger than economists had forecast, even with pressure from a strong dollar and weak global growth. As a result, revisions could push the official reading for first-quarter gross domestic product into negative territory from the paltry 0.2% annualized gain initially reported last week.

“The underlying story remains the same: Growth faltered at the start of the year with very few signs of momentum,” said Sterne Agee economist Lindsey Piegza.

After the trade report, economists at J.P. Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank DB 0.44 % cut their first-quarter GDP growth estimates to show a 0.5% contraction. Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers lowered its reading by six-tenths of a percent to a 0.4% contraction. All three had previously estimated a tiny expansion for the quarter.

The figures represent a setback for the U.S. economy, but it overcame a similar one that surfaced last year.

Following a contraction in the first quarter of 2014, the economy grew at an almost 4% pace for the rest of the year. And employers added jobs last year at the best rate since the mid-1990s, raising hopes that the long-awaited breakout had arrived.

Instead, the U.S. appears to have again hit the brakes at the start of the year. That exposes a host of concerns, including the drag on growth from a stronger dollar, persistent weakness among key trading partners in China and Europe and the reliance on U.S. consumers to drive the world’s economy.

“It’s really a global challenge right now,” said Marc Skalla, president of Atlanta-based SASCO Chemical Group Inc., which makes chemicals for tires and other industries. The firm expects sales to grow by 20% this year, but the stronger dollar is squeezing export profits.

A stronger dollar has “taken contracts that we worked on last year and completely changed them,” Mr. Skalla said. “We’ll feel it on the margins.”

From mid-2014 through the end of March, the dollar appreciated by more than 20% against a weighted index of major currencies tracked by the Federal Reserve. The Fed index shows the dollar’s value has fallen somewhat since early April, a move that could cushion exporters from some of the fallout.

The latest economic setback comes with plenty of caveats. Upcoming data on inventories and services could again recast the view of the first quarter. The domestic economy also appears to be relatively firm. Consumer confidence is rising, household spending picked up since the winter and lower oil prices are likely to boost many consumers and businesses this year.

March’s trade gap was the largest of the expansion, driven by a rebound after ports on the West Coast returned to normal following a monthslong labor dispute. That helped imports post a record 7.7% improvement on the month. Goods imports from China were up 32% compared with March 2014. Meanwhile, exports only inched up 0.9%.

The trade gap in February, when the labor dispute ended, was the smallest since late 2009. The three-month moving average for the trade gap, a measure that evens out swings, shows it expanded modestly from a year earlier.

Imports at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle around 40% of the U.S. imported container traffic, reached near-record levels in March, which is typically one of the slowest months of the year at the ports.

The Port of Los Angeles, the country’s busiest container port, said import volume grew 70% in March from February. Export volume, which typically makes up only about half the business at Los Angeles, wasn't as strong, growing 10% month to month and falling 23% from a year earlier.

The Maritime Exchange of Southern California said the backlog of ships anchored at sea waiting for a port berth reached a peak of 36 ships the week of Feb. 26. The logjam had all but disappeared by late last week.

Norfolk Southern Corp. NSC 2.20 % ’s business in the first quarter reflected unusual activity related to the West Coast port issues, Chief Executive Charles “Wick” Moorman said, adding that unusually cold weather and the strong dollar are also factors in the import surge.

By mid-March, the railway operator’s business started to return to normal, Mr. Moorman said. That repeats a pattern seen last year, when economic output turned negative in the first quarter and then snapped back quickly.

“It feels a lot like it did last year,” he said.

JACO Machine Works LLC, a Santa Cruz, Calif., firm that produces parts for medical equipment, scientific instruments and other applications saw a slowdown in orders from a German customer.

“They tell me that European market is soft for them,” President Andy Smith said. In contrast, JACO has seen increased demand from California firms building medical devices and robots. “The first quarter wasn’t great, but I still see a strong domestic economy.”

Despite the widening of the overall trade gap, the petroleum deficit continued to narrow in the U.S. Over the past several years, the amount of petroleum shipped to the U.S. declined while domestic production increased.

The trade deficit for petroleum products fell to $7.67 billion in March, the lowest since June 2002. After climbing above $100 a barrel last June, benchmark oil prices plunged through the second half of 2014 and have stayed near $50 a barrel most of this year.

From a year earlier, U.S. imports are up 1% and exports are down 3%. The more subtle change suggests the appreciation of the dollar hampers exports. In addition, slowing economies in parts of Europe and Asia have reduced demand for U.S. goods and services.

How a turbulent global economy will shape the U.S. expansion is high on the minds of Federal Reserve officials. In a statement following last month’s policy meeting, central bankers acknowledged that economic growth slowed in the winter months.

If central bankers see global developments holding back U.S. growth, they could wait longer to raise short-term interest rates from near zero.


Posted: June 12th, 2015 | Permalink

ADEDC Excellence in Innovation Award: SASCO Chemical Group

SASCO Chemical Group is the recipient of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission’s 2015 Excellence in Innovation Industry Award.

SASCO Chemical Group is a third-generation owned chemical manufacturing company whose success and growth is driven by its innovate corporate culture. SASCO has developed revolutionary products for the rubber, wood, mulch and biomedical industries. Most recently, SASCO developed a breakthrough product for the engineered wood industry that has alleviated the industry’s historical problems with corrosion, adhesion release and cleanliness.

Posted: April 22nd, 2015 | Permalink

Gov. Deal recognizes SASCO Chemical for entering into a new international market in 2014

ATLANTA, March 2 – Gov. Nathan Deal recognized SASCO Chemical Group with a GLOBE (Georgia Launching Opportunities By Exporting) Award for entering one or more new international markets in 2014.


 “International trade is a vital component of economic development for small businesses in Georgia,” said Gov. Deal. “In fact in the last year, 88 percent of companies that utilized Georgia’s international trade services had fewer than 100 employees. The GLOBE Awards give us an opportunity to recognize our state’s small businesses that have entered into a new market in the past year. This year’s award winners represent the high-caliber, highly competitive companies that operate in Georgia, and I congratulate each of them on receiving this great honor.”



The GLOBE Awards were established by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) in 2014 for the purpose of highlighting companies that have contributed to Georgia’s economic development and global presence by exporting to a new international market.

“Exporting continues to be the foundation of our sales growth, and we are honored to receive the GLOBE Award,” said Marc Skalla, President. “As we approach each new export market, we are reminded that the United States continues to have an advantage with highly technical and highly engineered standard-setting products.  This innovation gap enables us to sustain jobs and even expand our work force.”

GLOBE Award recipients were recognized at the second annual Go Global reception on March 2, 2015 at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, an annual networking event for the state’s international representatives. The state has international representation in 11 strategic markets, including Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the United Kingdom and Ireland.


This year’s 44 GLOBE Award winners represented 17 Georgia counties and collectively expanded into 104 different countries and territories. Approximately 90 percent of this year’s winners have 100 or less employees, while 73 percent have 50 or less employees. Among the winners, the most popular new markets were the United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Colombia. These companies entered an average number of more than six new markets in 2014. The company with the largest number of new markets expanded into 37 countries and territories last year.


“These awards highlight the importance of exporting for small and medium sized companies across our state.  Last year, 88% of companies that utilized Georgia’s International Trade services to grow sales in international markets had fewer than 100 employees.  Trade remains an important component of economic development in Georgia,” said Mary Waters, GDEcD Deputy Commissioner of International Trade.


Recently released trade statistics for 2014 showed Georgia celebrated a 5th consecutive year of export growth, with a record $39.4 billion in exports

Posted: March 4th, 2015 | Permalink

SASCO’s Marc Skalla Elected to NAM Executive Committee

SASCO’s Marc Skalla Elected to NAM Executive Committee

Monday, January 19th, 2015

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) announced that Marc Skalla, president of SASCO Chemicals, has been elected to the NAM Executive Committee. Skalla will join the 32-member NAM Executive Committee to advance a robust, pro-growth manufacturing policy agenda.

NAM Board Member and SASCO Chemical Group President Marc Skalla speaks at the NAM’s Leadership Engagement Series in Pittsburgh, PA.

NAM Board Member and SASCO Chemical Group President Marc Skalla speaks at the NAM’s Leadership Engagement Series in Pittsburgh, PA.

Founded in 1895, the NAM, guided by its Executive Committee, is the largest industrial trade association in the United States with more than 14,000 members and is the nation’s most influential advocate for manufacturing.

The NAM is at the forefront of every important policy debate for manufacturers. Executives on the NAM Executive Committee, which comprises leaders representing companies of all sizes in every industrial sector, are the driving force behind the NAM’s advocacy efforts.

“I am excited for the opportunity to represent manufactures in the Southeast on the many issues facing our industry daily in Washington.  There are tremendous opportunities in Washington to advance policies on trade, taxation, and regulation that could greatly enhance our ability to compete and thrive in the world economy.”  Said Marc Skalla.

“In addition to serving as the Southeast Regional Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, Marc will be a valuable addition to the NAM Executive Committee and will continue to act as a champion for manufacturing,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “As a leader in the business community and for the NAM, he has proven time and again that he is critical to the new era in manufacturing, setting the manufacturing agenda and driving pro-growth policies.”

Posted: January 26th, 2015 | Permalink

Investment + Innovation = Growth

~~As part of “Investment Week” we want to highlight the role that pro-investment tax policy plays in the success of our nation’s manufacturing sector. These provisions are used by manufacturers large and small and are a particularly high priority for small and medium-sized manufacturers. In order to compete in a worldwide economy, manufacturers need to plan and invest and meet emerging needs. Extension of the pro-growth policies that expired at the end of 2013 would amount to a major step towards a tax code that will promote investment. Capital investment is key to economic growth, job creation and competitiveness.

NAM Board Member and SASCO Chemical Group President Marc Skalla speaks at the NAM’s Leadership Engagement Series in Pittsburgh, PA.
NAM Board Member and SASCO Chemical Group President Marc Skalla speaks at the NAM’s Leadership Engagement Series in Pittsburgh, PA.

Take for example SASCO Chemical Group, Inc. (SASCO), a Georgia-based third generation family-owned chemical manufacturer with worldwide distribution. According to SASCO’s President Marc Skalla, “Innovation has made us who we are today; reinventing ourselves through innovation will secure our future and make us who we will be tomorrow.”

To continue this forward-thinking progression, SASCO opened a state-of-the-art Innovation and Technology Center that houses their R&D, Technical, and Process-Pilot plant team. Over the past few years, SASCO has relied heavily on both enhanced Section 179 and bonus depreciation provisions in the Tax Code to enhance cash flows on scale up projects originating mainly from their Innovation and Technology Center. According to Marc, “without such provisions, our ability to transition innovations from a small-scale lab environment to full production lines would be severely hampered.  Capital projects such as those our Company launches are exactly the type of projects that these tax provisions are intended to support.”

Companies like SASCO that are innovating, growing and competing are at the heart of the ongoing manufacturing comeback taking place in the United States.  These investment incentives have allowed SASCO to triple their facility’s capacity over the past four years to keep up with the double digit growth they have experienced annually since 2008. This growth has earned SASCO many accolades including a recent recognition from President Obama’s E-Awards for significant contributions to increasing American exports.

Manufacturers like SASCO, and thousands of manufacturers in communities across the country, need pro-growth, pro-investment tax policy to allow them to face the challenges of competing in a global marketplace. Manufacturers face enough headwinds and uncertainty in the tax code should not be adding more. We urge every member of Congress to support renewing and extending these policies. Until we can get the full panoply of pro-growth pro-manufacturing tax policies enacted via comprehensive tax reform, this is a critical step forward.
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Posted: November 14th, 2014 | Permalink