Rutherford B. Hayes was president and Thomas Edison was granted a patent for the phonograph the year two Akron-area businessmen, J. Martin Beck and Edward G. Kubler, founded APV Engineered Coatings under the name Akron Varnish Works. From a small manufacturing site in the heart of downtown Akron, the company produced a small line of wood varnishes and black enamels for a variety of goods.
Today, 140 years after its 1878 founding, the company that is now APV Engineered Coatings has evolved to become one of the nation’s leading manufacturers and engineers of niche industrial coatings and advanced chemical products for factory- and field-applied applications. The company also contract-manufactures products for some of the largest paint and coating manufacturers. APV creates products that touch virtually every aspect of people’s lives.
“We are proud of our roots in Akron and in our continued growth as we invent, manufacture and provide unique solutions for just about every industry on the planet, from aerospace and automotive, to building products, government applications, and other niche markets,” said Thomas Venarge, President, APV Engineered Coatings.
Two seminal events in the transportation industry fueled the company’s growth around the turn of the 20th century: the 1893 invention of the “safety bicycle” and the introduction of Ford®’s Model-T in 1912. APV reaped the benefits of the bicycle boom as more than half of the nation’s bikes were finished with enamel from Akron Varnish Works. The company also enjoyed outstanding prosperity supplying a black “Japan”, a high-temperature baking enamel that provided a shiny aesthetic to the Ford® Model-T.
In 1912, the company moved from downtown Akron to its current site in South Akron, where over the years, it has increased its footprint, adding laboratory, warehouse and office space. In 1935, company stockholders changed the firm’s name to The Akron Paint & Varnish Company to reflect its new line of paints and varnishes and expanding sales into the tire industry, airline industry and products for government applications.
A New Identity
In 1982, David Venarge purchased Akron Paint & Varnish and became the company’s president. The company started focusing more on the engineered coatings market and in the 1990s, once again altered its name to APV Engineered Coatings, a fitting recognition for its continued research, development and engineering orientation. In 2010, David Venarge became Chairman of APV and appointed Thomas Venarge as president.
“Our philosophy is simple: mutually beneficial partnerships,” said Thomas Venarge. “We work as true partners with our customers, providing not only advanced industrial coating and chemical formulations, but also custom equipment engineering, contract manufacturing and global product distribution. We’re ready for any challenge and enjoy working with our customer partners from the R&D stage, to testing and production trials, through full commercial production.”
While the company directly markets most of the products it manufactures, it also has a successful contract manufacturing business that produces formulations under private label for both small firms and some of the largest companies in the world.
“We play a crucial role in helping these companies get their products to market on time and on budget,” said Venarge. “We have the manufacturing capacity and quick turnaround times they need, the process control and engineering expertise to bring it all together, custom packaging and worldwide distribution services, and the ability to retain inventory and batch history for as long as customers request. We put as much care into the contract formulas we manufacture as we put into the formulas we develop for our own brands.”
“Fewer and fewer companies are offering the type of service we do,” Venarge added. “Back in the 1960s, there were probably 3,500 paint manufacturers in the country. As the industry became more regulated, and the barriers to entry grew, the number of manufacturers reduced considerably. APV is still privately held and has remained strong and committed to the industry.”
APV Engineered Coatings has more than doubled in size and tripled in capacity over the last 20 years, with more than 50 percent capacity increase in the last five years alone. On average, the company currently produces about 1.5 million gallons of product a year from a 15-acre R&D and manufacturing facility in South Akron.
With more than 300 pieces of manufacturing equipment over 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space, the company can accommodate everything from pint-sized samples and small batch runs to large-scale, tanker-truck-sized production output.
Products OEM and after market applications currently produced at APV Engineered Coatings include:
• Binders, concentrates and slurries
• Industrial crayons
• Screen-printed decals
• Forging lubricants
• Industrial Inks
• Inspection markers
• Maskant materials for aerospace components
• Custom engineered paints and coatings
• High performance architectural coatings
• Custom primers
• Tire and rubber paints and lubricants
Supporting the Akron Manufacturing Community
APV Engineered Coatings’ ability to meet quick turn-around times for contract customers while also maintaining production capacity for its own brands is a testament to the investments the company has made in recent years. It currently employs between 100-120 people at its Akron plant, with about 10 percent of its staff working as chemists.
“We continue to invest in our facilities to meet the future demands of our customers,” said Venarge. “We’re also investing in the future of the manufacturing industry here in Akron. We’re currently renovating a 32,000-square-foot addition for more warehouse space and have plans on the drawing board for another 44,000-square-foot manufacturing and warehouse facility.”
“Akron, and especially the newly coined Firestone Business Park, is a perfect location for creating manufacturing jobs,” Venarge added. “It’s close to interstates and rail access, and there are several opportunities for re-development. We’re committed to Akron, and are working to keep existing industrial companies in the area as well as attract new ones. Our vision at APV is to be the ‘model home’ in a vibrant new neighborhood.”