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Covington's Valspar creates those recognizable colors

Tim Taylor, the quality control supervisor at Valspar's Covington facility, tests the quality and the color of a powdered coating to be shipped to a customer. The plant makes distinctive color coatings for such well-known customers as John Deere, Caterpillar and Toro. Taylor has been with the company for 36 years, during which time it has experienced tremendous growth. - Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Tim Taylor, the quality control supervisor at Valspar's Covington facility, tests the quality and the color of a powdered coating to be shipped to a customer. The plant makes distinctive color coatings for such well-known customers as John Deere, Caterpillar and Toro. Taylor has been with the company for 36 years, during which time it has experienced tremendous growth. - Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

COVINGTON -- The distinct green indicates that John Deere made the tractor. The bright yellow bulldozer is probably a Caterpillar and Toro likely made the deep red lawnmower.

But who manufactures the colored coating for these recognizable products?

Valspar Corporation, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, operates powdered coating plants in Covington, Charlotte, N.C., and Kansas City, Mo.

Dale Blackwell, plant manager at Valspar located on Harland Avenue in Covington, said the Covington facility makes powdered coating for original equipment manufacturers, such as John Deere, Caterpillar, MTD and Toro.

He said that most lawn tractors are painted with powdered coating from the Covington plant.

Valspar also creates coating for gas, oil and water lines, a product that is called fusion bonded epoxy that places a green-colored coating around the lines.

"The purposes is, No. 1, to make them look better, and No. 2, to stop corrosion," Blackwell said.

He said that Valspar also provides the coating for many canned beverages and most garden tools.

Valspar makes the coating for just about "everything you could possibly coat outside your house," Blackwell said.

The manufacturing process begins when the raw materials are mixed together depending on their customers' specifications in a 2,000-pound bowl. The bowl is then raised by a forklift and turned upside down. The material, which then looks like taffy, is poured into an extruder, where it is mixed with heat and comes out on a conveyor belt in a large ribbon.

The material, which was heated to about 300 F, is cooled to about 100 F and then chipped into smaller pieces. Those smaller pieces are fed into a mill and ground into fine particles that resemble baby powder.

Samples from each batch are sent through quality control to make sure the colors match the customers' needs.

Tim Taylor, quality control supervisor at Valspar, explained that the powder is applied using electrostatic, which generates a charge so the powder clings to the piece to be coated. That piece is then placed in an oven where the color is melted on.

"Once it's on there, it's on there until it's sandblasted off," Taylor said.

The powder to be shipped is packaged in 2,200-pound sacks or large boxes. Blackwell said that the company has grown from owning 3 to 6 percent of the functional market -- pipelines and fire hydrants, for example -- to now owning about 50 to 60 percent of that market.

"A lot of that business is focused in this plant," Blackwell said.

About 70 percent of its business is in the functional market and 30 percent in the decorative coatings market.

Blackwell said he expects the company will see some growth in this area as a result of the announced opening of the Caterpillar plant in Athens.

He said volume has grown from producing 10.2 million pounds in 2009 to an estimated 27 million pounds this year.

Valspar, which sits on about 11 acres, has a 96,000-square-foot facility. The company opened in 2006 when it acquired H.B. Fuller's interests in the powder coating business. Today, Valspar employs 69 people and operates two 12-hour-shift days, seven days a week.

The company prides itself on its safety and quality control. Valspar is one of 87 locations in Georgia named a VPP Star site, which is a voluntary protection program through the state Department of Labor and OSHA. The Covington facility also recently was named a President's Safety and Environmental Achievement Award winner for the second time.

"We have such a strong team here," Blackwell said. "We could not be this effective or efficient without this team."

At A Glance

• Valspar is a VPP Star site

• Two-time President’s Safety and Environmental Achievement Award winner

• ISO 9001:2008 certified

• NSF certified

• UL certified

Did you know…

Valspar in the No. 1 paint supplier in the coatings market for the lawn and garden market.

Source: Valspar Corp.