News Article

Springboro firm poised for growth
Date: Jun 01, 2012
Author: Joe Cogliano
Source: bizjournals ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Renegade Materials Corporation of Springboro, OH

Renegade Materials Corp. is ready for a boom.

The 22-employee company already has selected equipment and blueprints to more than quadruple its 26,000-square-foot footprint in Springboro, should deals in the works come through. But already the firm has seen rapid growth.

While much of its sales have been to the defense industry, Renegade has been courting commercial aircraft makers. The company — which makes high-temperature composite materials — is waiting to hear about two contract awards — one this summer and one next summer — that would each require it to add space and hire about 60 workers.

Launched in Springboro in 2007, Renegade officials needed a lot of patience — and some assistance — to get to this point. Proving its materials work in the aerospace industry, also known as the qualification process, can take years of investment and that would normally be a daunting task to a high-tech startup like Renegade.

However, by tapping into the Dayton Development Coalitions' Entrepreneurial Signature Program, Renegade was able to do business on a small scale until it could grow, said Laura Gray, general manager and one of four partners in Renegade.

As an ESP company — a program meant to foster tech-based startups — Renegade has taken advantage of nearly $700,000 in loans and $220,000 in free services during the past five years, including promotions and networking support. It received funding originally in 2007, but in subsequent years as well, and is on track to post $10 million in sales this year.

Gray and her partners are confident the boom is coming, it's just a matter of time.

"We're competing very solidly against the big guys, and winning," Gray said.
High tech

Renegade coats carbon fabric with resins to create what is known as prepreg, a composite material, which is used by aerospace companies — such as GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Boeing Co., or their subcontractors — to manufacture parts.

Rolls of prepreg are kept frozen, which stabilizes it, until the product is ready for use. The customer then thaws out the prepreg material, cuts it to the shape of a mold and applies heat and pressure to make the part.

Because of their high tolerance to heat, the parts made from Renegade's material can replace titanium and other metals on aircraft that are in, or near, the engines.

Composites have been used on aircraft for years, but Gray said the key to Renegade's technology is a lack of need to cover its parts with insulation or other protection from heat. Hence, it leads to more weight savings and even less fuel consumption than traditional composites.

The high temperature segment of composite materials for aircraft production is only a small part of the overall composite materials industry, but observers say it is now growing at a steady clip, which leaves plenty of room for Renegade to grow.

In addition, the company could be one of the few players in the commercial aerospace market as the materials are more widely accepted by the industry.

That's because most companies in the niche market have developed their product in conjunction with the U.S. military, so it cannot be exported and therefore cannot be on commercial planes, Gray said.

Renegade did not do that. Still, most of Renegade's products are used in military applications, such as on Pratt & Whitney engines for the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Renegade was launched because it's two primary investors — Eric Collins and Bob Gray — made high-temperature resins at another company they own, Blue Ash-based Maverick Corp. And the most practical way to get those resins into products was to start a company that made the prepreg.

They got together with Laura Gray and Susan Robitaille, Renegade's technical director, who each worked in the prepreg industry for more than 30 years.

"Maverick really needed to get into the prepreg business," Laura Gray said. "And we all knew each other from years in the business."

DDC officials say Renegade was selected as an ESP company for several reasons: It fits within the region's ESP signature areas of Advanced Materials and Aerospace; it has a strong leadership team, capable of managing and growing the business through its critical early-stage growth; and it's a local business, with strong interest in growing within the Dayton region.

"Renegade is an anchor company upon which an entire aerospace materials industry segment can be built," said Ray Hagerman, vice president of investments with the Dayton Development Coalition. "Through their own hard work and the collaboration with the Dayton Development Coalition ESP program and the state of Ohio Third Frontier initiative, Renegade was able to access the expertise, financial resources and ongoing support it needed to position itself for rapid growth."

Renegade also received startup assistance from the Montgomery County Port Authority, Montgomery County and the city of Springboro.

When the company is ready to grow, Laura Gray expects to be able to draw the workers it needs from right here in the region. She said the company has seen success bringing in former auto workers, like those recently laid off at nearby DMAX, who have significant training in productivity standards.

"We have a rich, rich talent pool available here," she said. "And we're just hoping we can bring on a significant amount of jobs before these people leave. We don't want them to leave the area."