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Rogers Corporation Business Information, Profile, and History

company materials products million

1 Technology Drive
Rogers
Connecticut
06263-0188
U.S.A.

Company Perspectives

Rogers Corporation is a manufacturer of specialty materials for applications in portable communications, communication infrastructure, consumer products, computer and office equipment, ground transportation, and aerospace and defense.

History of Rogers Corporation

Rogers Corporation is a global specialty materials company that maintains its headquarters in the small town of Rogers, Connecticut, which assumed the name in the 1950s after the company agreed to pay the electric bill for the street lights.

Rogers focuses on the portable communications, communication infrastructure, consumer products, computer and office equipment, ground transportation, and aerospace and defense markets, manufacturing and selling high-performance specialty materials in four business segments. The Printed Circuit Materials segment produces flexible materials such as circuit ribbons used to link components in laptops and cell phones, and high-frequency circuit laminates used in antennas for cellular base stations, low noise block down-converters (LNBs) for direct broadcast satellite television receivers, radar systems, and high-performance wireless components. The High Performance Foams segment produces urethane, silicone, and nonwoven materials used in a wide variety of applications in the communications, computer, transportation, printing, and consumer markets. The materials are used to make gaskets in appliances, and a variety of gaskets and seals in automobiles, aircraft, and trains; serve as cushions and seals in cell phones and other handheld devices; act as padding for medical and prosthetic skin contact devices and protective garments; and provide shock absorption and cushioning in footwear and sporting equipment. The Custom Electrical Components segment is composed of the electroluminescent (EL) lamps and inverters used as backlighting for displays, dials, and keypads. Applications include portable devices and automobiles. Also in this segment, busbars are used in locomotive trains to distribute the power generated by the diesel engine to the electric motors that move the train. Rogers's Other Polymer Products segment makes products such as floats used in automobile fuel tanks; rollers used in printers, copiers, and mail processing systems; foam padding used in printing applications; and laminates for shielding of cables and for various automotive and industrial applications.

In the United States Rogers maintains manufacturing plants in Connecticut, Arizona, and Illinois. Foreign manufacturing operations are located in Belgium, China, and Korea. Sales offices are located in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore. Rogers has joint ventures in Japan and China with Inoac Corporation, in Taiwan with Chang Chun Plastics, and in the United States with Mitsui Chemicals. Rogers Corporation is a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

19th-Century Origins

The founding of Rogers Corporation dates back to 1832 when a Dutch immigrant named Peter Rogers opened a paper mill in Manchester, Connecticut. Named Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company, this company produced paperboard used in the thriving textile industry of New England. When Peter died in 1841, his son, Henry Rogers, took over the business. It was Henry who established a culture of innovation, and was instrumental in the development of a number of advances in papermaking, including the bleaching of colored paper and the recycling of waste paper, the latter an extremely important contribution to the industry. In 1890 Henry Rogers retired and his son, Knight, and daughter, Gertrude, ran the business. Under their stewardship, Rogers Paper became a supplier of transformer insulation board for the emerging electrical power transformer industry at the dawn of the 20th century. This business spurred growth in sales approaching $1 million.

In 1901 the company incorporated in Connecticut, with all stock owned by the Rogers family. In 1927 Rogers Paper was reincorporated in Massachusetts and taken public, the first step in removing direct involvement of the Rogers family after almost a century of control. In 1920, seven years after Knight Rogers died, his sister installed the first nonfamily member to run the business: Charles Ray, a seasoned executive who came from the Troy, New York-based Manning Paper Company. In 1927 Ray bought all of Gertrude's company stock. A year later he took steps to diversify the company, bringing in a technical director, Saul M. Silverstein, who held a chemical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Silverstein, in turn, recruited M.I.T. classmate Raymond A. St. Laurent to take over sales and develop new markets for the company's paperboard products.

The diversification effort was well timed. It began to bear fruit as the United States suffered the stock crash of 1929, which ushered in the decade-long Great Depression. New products included tympana printing board, rail joints, artificial leather, and motor insulation materials. Not only did Rogers survive the economic downturn of the 1930s, it was able to invest in the research and development of new phenolic resin plastics. It was the addition of these products that brought the company to Goodyear, Connecticut, the village that would one day bear the Rogers name. Originally known as Williamsville, it became Goodyear around the start of the 20th century because Goodyear was its largest employer. In 1936 the company sold its plant for $250,000 to Rogers, which continued to maintain three small manufacturing units in Manchester. The village retained the Goodyear name until 1953 when Rogers's president, Saul Silverstein, was so miffed at seeing Goodyear--a competitor in molded rubber products--on his company's letterhead that he struck a deal with the village to pay for the 22 streetlights in the center of town if the village name was changed to Rogers. On the basis of a handshake, the change was agreed to and went into effect in 1954.

Depression-Era Developments

In the final years of the 1930s, Rogers transferred production to the former Goodyear plant and consolidated the Manchester operations. Diversification continued in the 1940s, as Rogers now became involved in footwear. Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company no longer seemed an appropriate name, and in 1945 the company became the Rogers Corporation. The company's focus continued to move further away from paper products in the postwar years. In 1949 Rogers added new fiber-reinforced polymer materials for use in electrical insulation and gaskets. Four years later glass and ceramic fiber were incorporated to make chemical-resistant gaskets. Company researchers would continue to combine polymers and chemicals with natural and synthetic, organic and inorganic fibers to create a host of new products. During this period Rogers also added product lines by acquiring Cellular Rubbers Products, Inc., a Willimantic, Connecticut-based elastomer fabrication company, maker of molder circuits in switches and timers for cars, appliances, and industrial uses.

The 1950s also saw Rogers make its first international move, licensing its phenolic molding materials to Vynckier N.V. in Ghent, Belgium, in 1958. The decade was a watershed period for Rogers in another way as well. The company began to implement long-range planning, identifying new markets--in particular the fast-growing electronics industry. For example, in 1959 Rogers became involved in the mainframe computer market by developing a busbar, a laminated circuit that distributed power in IBM's new transistorized computer. Within a few years Rogers was supplying busbars to almost all mainframe computer manufacturers. As part of its planning effort, Rogers established a goal of doubling revenues and profits every five years. Thus sales that totaled $5 million in 1958 doubled to $10 million by 1963. Also of importance, the company had in 1960 gained a listing on the American Stock Exchange, providing a higher profile with investors.

Although Rogers continued to produce transformer insulation board, the company's growth was now linked to new products used in electronics and consumer goods. In the early 1960s Rogers introduced materials used to make breathable footwear, chemical-resistant floats, and high-temperature, synthetic fiber-based materials. In 1966 Rogers acquired technology from Westinghouse Electric Corporation that would not have an immediate commercial impact but would one day be used in the development of flexible circuits that would be needed in increasing numbers in computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. With so much of the electronics industry operating in the western United States, Rogers opened a 40,000-square-foot plant in Chandler, Arizona, in 1967 to house the new Circuit Systems Division. A year later Rogers bought Woodstock, Connecticut-based Litho Chemical & Supply Co., Inc. to establish a new PORON Division to produce the high-density, flexible foam used in footwear as well for medical and other applications. Rogers closed the 1960s by forming its first international company, Mektron N.V., established in May 1969 in Ghent, Belgium, to produce busbars and interconnection products for the European market. Rogers also cast its attention elsewhere in the world, licensing Mektron interconnection products to Nippon Oil Seal Industry Co., Ltd. and establishing Rogers Mexicana in Agua Prieta, Mexico.

Rogers's annual sales by the start of the 1970s approached $30 million, about 28 percent of which came from the electronics markets, in particular data processing. Electronics would become even more important over the next dozen years, so that by 1982 it accounted for 72 percent of Rogers's revenues. Growth was so steady that Rogers continually expanded its production capacity. By 1973 the company was operating 14 plants in seven states and three countries. Another plant was bought in Lithonia, Georgia, in 1976, and in 1979 the Manchester facility was expanded as was the Mexico operation. Another plant was acquired in Mesa, Arizona, in 1980, and a new production facility was added in France. In 1982 the Chandler operation was supplemented by a second plant.

A key to Rogers's growth was its ongoing commitment to research and development. In the early 1970s the company opened the Lurie Research and Development Center in Rogers, Connecticut, the facility named after a former technical director. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Rogers developed a host of new products, including materials for microwave stripline circuitry, micromotion membrane keyboards, and asbestos-free gasketing materials. The company also expanded through acquisition and joint ventures. In 1980 Rogers acquired Soladyne, Inc., a San Diego maker of microwave stripline circuits. Rogers formed a joint venture with Inoac Corporation in Nagoya, Japan, in 1984 to produce high-performance elastomers for the Asian market. Then, in 1988, Rogers and 3M created Durel Corporation, a joint venture that manufactured electroluminescent backlighting systems.

Rogers experienced a drop in earnings in the late 1980s, prompting the company to search for ways to cut costs. One of the areas it looked at was the $500,000 electric bill for the year. One item stood out: $2,600 to pay for the streetlights in Rogers, Connecticut. No one in management knew of the 1950s' agreement with the village and it was decided to let the taxpayers foot the bill. Neither the village nor the local fire district that included Rogers stepped in to pick up the tab, and so in October 1989, the lights went out. Soon, one arson and at least two burglaries took place, prompting residents to meet in a local church to vent their anger at the company and begin taking steps to change the name of the village back to Williamsville. The effort was spearheaded by Charles A. Spaulding, who had lived in the town for 44 years and worked for the company for 34, and one of the few people still alive who remembered Saul Silverstein's handshake agreement. The cost of changing letterhead and signage, as well as bad community relations, were not worth the $2,600 in savings, and Rogers Corporation quickly agreed to pay for the streetlights for at least another 14 years. Peace was restored, and maps of Connecticut did not have to be redone.

End-of-Century Changes

In 1992 a new chief executive officer, Harry Birkenruth, initiated a strategic restructuring of Rogers to focus attention on the company's specialty polymer composite materials businesses, which in the past 30 years had emerged as the primary engines of growth. Over the next few years Rogers shed a number of divisions and products. In March 1992 the Circuit Components Division plant in Tempe, Arizona, was sold. A year later Rogers Flexible Interconnections Division and a half-interest in a related joint venture, Smartflex Systems, were sold to Ampersand Ventures. The Power Distribution Division was sold to Method Electronics in 1994. The Soladyne Division was sold at the end of 1995. Rogers also built on its core product lines by acquiring Bisco Products from the Dow Corning Corporation in a deal that closed at the beginning of 1997. The Elk Grove Village, Illinois-based business sold high-performance cellular silicone foam products, which Rogers continued to market under the BISCO brand name. In addition, Rogers gained a presence in the European commercial aerospace market. In that same year, Rogers acquired another Ghent, Belgium company, UCB Induflex N.V., maker of multilayer laminates for shielding of electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. Also in 1997, Birkenruth retired, turning over the reins to Walter E. Boomer, who took over at the end of March. He inherited a company that for the year generated sales of $216.6 million and net income of $16.5 million.

In the final years of the 1990s, Rogers opened a sales office in Taiwan; began construction on a new microwave materials manufacturing facility on an unused piece of property the company owned in Chandler, Arizona; acquired the engineering molding compounds business of Cytec Industries, Inc.; and formed a joint venture with Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. to produce specialty flexible laminates for Hutchinson Technology, Inc., the world's largest maker of hard disk drive suspension assemblies. Rogers closed the 1990s posting sales of $247.8 million and profits of $18.6 million.

Rogers had to contend with a rocky period for the technology sector starting in 2000 and lasting well into 2002 after a downturn in the national economy. After sales reached a record $316.8 million and net income totaled a record $26.7 million in 2000, business began to fall off significantly. Sales dipped to $216 million and net income to $18.6 million in 2001. The company enjoyed marginal improvement in 2002 before experiencing a significant rebound in 2003. Along the way, Rogers divested the Manchester Moldable Composites Division; bought out 3M to take a 100 percent interest in Durel Corporation and make it a division of Rogers; and began to relocate the Elastomer Components Divisions to China to be closer to customers. Of more importance, at the close of 2001 Rogers acquired some product lines from Cellect L.L.C., manufacturer of plastomeric and elastomeric high-performance polyolefin foams. As a result, Rogers became the only company to produce all three specialty foams--polyolefin, polyurethane, and silicone--thereby enhancing the company's long-term growth potential.

In the early 2000s Rogers enjoyed especially strong sales of LNBs to the robust satellite TV industry and flexible circuit materials used in cell phones, which as they moved to color displays required eight times as much flexible materials as earlier generation cell phones. In fact, the more tech product sold, the better Rogers performed. Moreover, it had few competitors in the niche markets it pursued and were costly for rivals to enter. Sales soared to $365 million in 2004 before taking a step back to $356.1 million in 2005 when Rogers also recorded net income of $16.4 million. Rogers's continued growth, as it pushed to become a $1 billion company, was likely to be driven by the demand for satellite dishes, cellphones and other handsets, broadband wireless and networking, as well as new high-tech automobile sensors such as tire-pressure sensors and collision-avoidance radar systems.

Principal Subsidiaries

Rogers Japan Inc.; Rogers China, Inc.; Rogers Specialties Materials Corporation; Rogers Circuit Materials, Inc.; Rogers N.V.

Principal Competitors

Cookson Group plc; Kingboard Chemical Holdings Ltd.; Rohn and Haas Electronic Materials.

Chronology

  • Key Dates
  • 1832 The company is founded by Peter Rogers as Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company.
  • 1841 Peter Rogers dies.
  • 1901 The company is incorporated, with all stock owned by the Rogers family.
  • 1927 The company is taken public; the Rogers family ends its connection to the company.
  • 1936 The Goodyear plant in Goodyear, Connecticut is acquired.
  • 1945 The company name is changed to Rogers Corporation.
  • 1954 Goodyear, Connecticut, changes its name to Rogers.
  • 1960 Rogers is listed on the American Stock Exchange.
  • 1968 Rogers acquires a plant in Woodstock, Connecticut to house production of PORON® urethanes.
  • 1969 The first European plant opens.
  • 1970 Rogers opens the Lurie Research and Development Center at its headquarters in Rogers, Connecticut.
  • 1984 Rogers Inoac Corporation is formed as a 50/50 joint venture with Inoac Corporation.
  • 1992 Strategic restructuring is initiated.
  • 1996 Rogers acquires Bisco Products from the Dow Corning Corporation.
  • 2000 Rogers stock begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • 2002 Rogers opens a manufacturing facility in China with expansions in operations in the ensuing years.
  • 2003 The High Performance Foams Division of Rogers opens a new facility in Carol Stream, Illinois.
  • 2004 A total of 65 percent of Rogers's sales are outside the United States.
  • 2005 More than 6 percent of Rogers's sales are outside the United States.
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