COMPANY OF THE YEAR (fewer than 100 employees)
• Founded in 1989.
• Produces custom-engineered packaging products for the nuclear waste, hazardous waste and transportation industries.
• Maintains locations in the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and across the country.
• Holds 10 U.S. patents and one U.K. patent.
• Has been featured on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels.
You’ve probably seen photos of military helicopters dropping massive bags of sand to plug the levee breaches that followed Hurricane Katrina. But you probably don’t know where those bags came from.
“Our lead engineer got a phone call in the middle of the night,” recalls Rodney Terral, executive vice president and CFO of PacTec. The company had maybe “a couple hundred” such bags on their shelves; the engineer was asked how quickly they could make 1,000 more.
“He says, ‘I can’t make anything; I don’t have any power,'” Terral says. “A few phone calls were made, and we had power by about 8 the next morning. We worked 24 hours a day for three or four weeks trying to make enough bags so that they could continue to shore up that levee breach.”
National exposure from the Katrina disaster led to more business for the growing company that started in a 2,400-square-foot facility in Clinton. Company president Mike Schilling, his mother and one other employee created the first product, a patented disposable plastic liner used in transporting hazardous waste.
As sales grew, their raw material supplier offered to partner with them, and PacTec was founded in 1989.
Today, PacTec is an industry leader in the design and manufacturing of hazardous waste packaging, with about 175 core employees (some 80 of them local), a presence in the United Kingdom and satellite offices and warehouse space across the country. Much of their product is made at a 50,000-square-foot plant in the Philippines, although the most highly customized work still happens in Clinton, where the headquarters remain.
“We’ve considered [moving],” Schilling says, noting that rural East Feliciana Parish doesn’t have the deepest talent pool. But PacTec has made significant investments there, in both equipment and people, and some of their employees have been with them for 15 years or longer.
“We want to expand our branch locations,” he says, “but from the corporate standpoint, we intend to remain in Clinton.”
Many of PacTec’s customers are in the oil and gas industry. Terral says the company has benefited from the fracking-driven expansion in onshore energy exploration in several states.
“We do see a lot more environmental consciousness in that industry as a whole,” Schilling adds.
He says PacTec constantly is looking at potential new markets. The company is testing various products and applications in Japan, which is only just getting started on the multidecade recovery from the Fukushima disaster.
“We know one day that’s going to be a monster cleanup,” Schilling says. “There’s a ton of contamination of soil and debris there.”
One product Schilling calls the Geotube, typically about 200 feet long and 60 feet in circumference and heretofore primarily used to remove sediment from industrial ponds, also could be positioned to create barriers to fight coastal erosion. While the tubes currently are made with woven plastics, Schilling says the company is exploring biodegradable materials. He thinks PacTec may end up benefiting from its proximity to the Water Campus coastal research center planned for Baton Rouge.
Schilling says the company always has funded its own growth, and remains proudly debt-free.
“It’s been a good position to be in,” he notes.
Terral says the company’s annual revenue is in the mid-$20 million range and is two years into a five-year plan to hit $50 million.
“We expect to double our business in the next three years or so,” he says.