Sierra Story Is a Saga of Changing Times

Change. Some people avoid it like the plague. Others accept it as a fact of life. Sierra Coating Technologies Inc., De Pere, WI, went chasing after it. Six years and a name change later, the company's move to expand beyond the carbonless paper business has proven to be a risk well taken.

Sierra's beginnings go back to its parent company, Shade/Allied Inc., an established, $150 million-plus manufacturer of business forms. In April 1995 Shade/Allied decided to separate its carbonless paper production into a distinct company: Shade/Allied Coated Products. Led by Gary Kozloski, the company's objective was to better utilize its people and coaters.

“We were forecasting and looking at carbonless coated papers,” explains Kozloski, partner and coating operations director at Sierra. “At that time, carbonless papers were pretty much tapering off in demand, and they continue to do so. We decided we didn't want to invest any more money in coating that type of product.”

In 1996 the company made the crucial decision to cease production of carbonless paper. Explains Kozloski, “We had no plan. We started from ground zero; we wanted to take our technology and our expertise in coating and coat something other than carbonless.”

Opting for Diversity

Later that year Shade/Allied Coated Products would begin laying the groundwork for what it truly envisioned: a company that could provide diverse coating and laminating solutions. It was then that all the pieces began to fall into place, but not without more change.

In December 1996 the parent company, Shade/Allied Inc., merged with Ampad, a maker of paper pads and envelopes. However, Ampad wasn't ready to take a chance on Sierra.

“They looked at Sierra, which was nothing, just over a million dollars in sales, and said, ‘That's not what we want.’ They decided they weren't going to take that along with [the rest],” Koz-loski recalls.

Sierra, however, wasn't discouraged. In February 1997 Shade Jr., Kozloski, and an investor group purchased Shade/Allied Coated Products and renamed it Sierra Coating Technologies LLC. Soon after, Sierra moved its operations to the facility next door, a 30,000-sq-ft warehouse that gave the company room to grow. They brought over [from the Shade/Allied facility] a 47-in. coater, revamped by Kozloski, which was capable of running at a maximum speed of 1,500 fpm. Since 1996 Koz-loski has engineered two more coaters, both 62 in. wide and capable of speeds to 1,800 fpm.

Shade sums up Sierra like this: “Sierra is a producer of coating and laminated specialty substrates, which services clients in North America and abroad. It offers a full line of release liners for pressure-sensitive and casting applications as well as aqueous and hot melt barrier coatings for food-packaging applications, such as ice cream wraps and dry ingredients.” The company, says Shade, now employs 21, and he adds, “We recently added a line of colored papers and holographic laminates targeted at the consumer packaging markets.”

But it is 3M's recent announcement that it's discontinued its popular Scotchban product that may put Sierra ahead of the game. The company reports its Seal-Coat® product is promising to be a reliable alternative to 3M's ScotchBan (see main story).

With a steadily growing clientele, aspirations of future expansion, and its status as a supplier and contract converter, Sierra is poised to become a very familiar face in the specialty substrates community.

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