Fugitives from Big Corporations Find Home in Medina County

FBC Chemical has a great history as a company and in the city of Medina. Launched in 1968 by Lad Hudac, this family-owned, independent chemical distributor has stayed strong in an industry where independent companies have been purchased by larger entities. Dave Hudac, President of FBC Chemical, sat down with Made in Medina County to share the story.

Q: Thank you so much for being with us today, Dave! Please share with us some of the history of FBC.

A: To understand our company, you really have to go back to 1922 when my dad was born in Czechoslovakia. Life was very hard and by the time Lad was eight, his family moved to the US for better opportunities and a shot at the American Dream. Through hard work and determination, he was able to put himself through college. He joined the Airforce and flew over 100 bombing missions in WWII.

Upon returning from combat, he joined Dow Chemical and worked there for several years. In 1968, after having 7 children, he met his future-partner who worked for GE at the time. In trying to name the company, they went through a number of choices and settled on “Fugitives from Big Corporations” or FBC Chemical.

With 7 kids and a wife who neither drove nor worked, it was a tough decision to go out on his own, but Lad was confident he could make it work. And now, here we are.

Q: That is such a great story! Where was the company launched and when did you come to Medina?

The company was founded in Mars, Pennsylvania but much of our customer-base was in the Northeast Ohio area. We have plants in Mars, Pennsylvania, Lancaster, New York, and Cleveland. We were able to come to Medina in 2001 and found this 136,000 square foot building. It has rail, and room to grow so it was a great fit. Also, we have terrific neighbors in Vexor and Owens Corning, and are able to work together to solve problems.

Q: Could you talk a little about what you do?

Absolutely! We break down large batches of chemicals into quantities our customers can use; so things like solvents and surfactants are our main products. One household example is isopropyl alcohol people can use to clean electronics safely and disinfect for Covid.

Q: We are so glad you mention that! Many people don’t know that isopropyl alcohol is the safest thing to use to clean phones, laptops, etc. and cleaning phones is really important as they are near your face. But hearing that, we can only imagine what the pandemic was like in your business! We heard about shortages, etc. What was that like?

I would describe it as the Wild West at the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone needed alcohols and disinfectant surfactants. I would get calls from brokers or producers saying they had a certain quantity of product, say ethanol,  and they would give me 5 minutes to determine if I would pay that price, money up front. If I didn’t decide or I said no, they would move on to the next buyer. That is highly unusual and normally prices are much more stable.

Q: Wow! We don’t think of the chemical industry being that intense! Are things better now?

Yes. Supply levels of disinfectant surfactants are returning to normal and we’ve been able to manage inventory and prices effectively. However, this year’s freeze in the south which closed many Texas refineries combined with today’s shipping container congestions, have added other challenges.

Q: That is great news! Could you share some of your products?

Solvents and surfactants are all around you. For example, one of our clients developed a product for the Library of Congress which removes the acid from paper archives preventing damage over time. We also make a number of coating products that prevent moisture damage. The weather-proofing membranes we produce can help prevent water damage to important structures. For example, our products were used on the World Trade Center and the Vietnam Memorial. We also make a unique natural coating for wood – typically used in kitchen counters and cutting boards which is totally food safe and solvent-free.

Q: They are all around us! Could you talk about your workforce here in Medina?

Our Medina workforce is fantastic. I am also happy to report we have seven third generation Hudacs in the business. We call it “productive nepotism”. Since our trucks deliver in a three-hour radius, our drivers are home every night. About 90% of our team lives within 10 miles of the plant. We have 13 employees here in Medina and another 13 in Cleveland.

Q: You sound like you really love Medina City and Medina County. Would you like to share on that topic?

We love the city and the county! Representatives have been the most proactive and responsive of any of our plants,  and  FBC appreciates the support. The location is great with access to all the major highways and easy ways to reach our customers. And the rail service is invaluable.

Chemicals is a highly regulated industry, and we build the safety needs into everything we do. We also have inspectors and regular external audits for safety. Overall, we appreciate the city’s understanding of what we do and how we do it.

Q: That’s great to hear! What does the future hold for FBC?

We have room to grow, which is great as we think we will need it. We have three chemists on staff to help customers solve problems. We are discussing right now how our business may change  with technology, and want to be proactive. We regularly meet with with all the plant managers and talk through their challenges, what they solved this year, where they need help, and what they see coming. It is a big help in figuring out what to tackle next. That really gives us a perspective on what’s happening today, and what we may need to anticipate for the future.

Obviously, disinfectant supplies will continue to be a focus for companies over the next few years so we definitely see an uptick in that business. We are excited about  our wood-care products because most products used on wood, especially in kitchens, contain solvents while ours is solvent-free and food safe.

We have big plans for the future and are excited to make them happen in Medina County!

For more information about FBC Chemical, please visit https://fbcchem.com/