SYRACUSE — Recently Polywood announced a $12 million dollar expansion which will include a new 300,000 to 400,000 square foot building. Doug Rassi, president of Polywood, explained the expansion is part of the company’s long term plan which has seen the business double every three years. “That’s how the mind of forward thinking entrepreneurs function,” he said. “…You’re anticipating what the future will be.”
Before ground can be broken however, the ball fields at the Harold Schrock Athletic Complex have to be moved, a process that could take at least a year.
While there is no set date for construction to start on the new building, Rassi said he wished he had broken ground 18 months ago and have the building up and running now. The new building will replicate what Polywood is already doing in the Syracuse Industrial Park, recycling plastic, turning it into plastic lumber and then making lawn furniture out of it.
The company employs 800 between the Syracuse and its plant in North Carolina, two thirds of those employees work in Syracuse. And the company continues to grow.
The recent nation-wide shut down to slow the spread of the corona virus didn’t slow production down at Polywood. Instead, Rassi said the company has seen an increase in orders. “We had incredible demand, more than our business plan anticipated,” he said. “We’ve hired a lot of people and we’re going to hire more.” He believes the increase in demand may be due to a ‘staycation” mindset as people are currently leery about traveling.
Rassi explained Polywood is able to ship directly to the customer. While the company works with a variety of on-line platforms such as Wayfair and Costco, Polywood also has it’s own website to take orders.
“On-line has taken a life of its own,” he said. In fact, Rassi explained the trends for retail furniture is flat except for on-line purchases as the younger generation, who tend to be more technically savvy, start purchasing furniture for their first homes.
During the shut down, many of Polywood’s employees were able to work from home and still are. “We were really surprised at how well things went, working from home,” Rassi said. “It presents us with some options. We’ve learned a lot about working remotely.”
Rassi credits how well the company did during the shut down to its investment in technology.
The company currently processes 50 million pounds of plastic a year, a number that Rassi expects to double in the not too distant future. “There is a lot of good recycling going on,” he said. “…There is very good, responsible recycling taking place.”
In addition to expanding its production, Polywood launched a new line called “Ocean” on Earth Day, April 22, although due to the pandemic the launch was softer than anticipated. The new line will remove 1 million pounds of ocean bound water bottles and recycle them into lawn chairs.
Rassi said he’s been talking with a variety of companies about ocean plastic, 90 percent of the plastic entering the ocean comes from impoverished countries, where survival is more of a priority than recycling. One company Polywood plans to work with The Plastic Bank, an organization based in Canada, which has implemented a program where it pays people to clean up plastic in impoverished areas of the world such as India, South East Asia, and Malaysia.
The Plastic Bank then takes the plastic that’s been collected to be recycled. Collectors are paid through an app on their phones. Those funds can then be used to purchase food and other essentials.
In addition to The Plastic Bank, Polywood is also working with other organizations that are pulling plastic that has already entered the oceans so it can be recycled as well.
“Polywood wants to do its part,” Rassi said. “We need a full circle solution (to ocean bound plastic). Philosophically we have the solution…whether we have the will to do it is another matter.”
Polywood is on target to make 1 million pieces of furniture in the near future.