"Our clients are really busy when the United States has enemies," said Barry Corona, president of Production Products.
...Wanting to spend more time at home, Corona left his job at an aerospace component supply firm in St. Louis and started Production Products in 1978.
The firm's early focus was making gaskets and seals for the chemical industry.Monsanto
was the firm's largest customer, and business was humming until December 1984.Then, a gas leak at a chemical plant in Bhopal, India, killed some 3,800 people.
"This almost destroyed our business," Corona
said."After the accident, the chemical industry was decimated, and our sales dropped.We had to move quickly.I attended several SBA (Small Business Administration) courses on doing business with the government."
Soon thereafter, Corona
went to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) and U.S. Army Troop Support Command (TROSCOM) in St. Louis to land new business.
"I went in there and saw that they did not buy the products that I made," Corona
said."Instead of having them ask me what I sold, I asked them, 'What do you buy?' They basically showed me what they had a need for, and they pushed us into textiles."
Starting with that first transaction, Production Products
gradually increased its sales to AMCOM and TROSCOM, continuing to sell to them even after they left St. Louis in the late 1990s.
"It was a tough nut to crack," Corona
said."Their quality standards are stringent.We picked products that had the shortest path to develop and produce, and started making them." Corona
said that being minority-owned has been helpful to his
business, but that this distinction does not outweigh the importance of marketing your product.