Burke Industrial Coatings: Painting a rosy future

James Harris Darrell Badertscher

The market remains strong for liquid stainless steel. For example, Vancouver-based Columbia Machine uses it on their palletizers and other equipment. However, Harris said the fastest growing sector of the business is their antimicrobial paint (Silver Bullet AM), which contains silver and copper. These metals reduce microbiological contamination and growth.

Bonneville Lock Dam 2010The food processing industry was an early adopter Burke’s antimicrobial paint, said Harris. For example, Nestlé uses Silver Bullet in several of their plants, and Harris hopes that Nestlé will standardize on Burke products throughout their 100+ locations. Currently, Burke is also in negotiation with Reser’s Fine Foods.

Several other industries are recognizing the value of Burke’s antimicrobial paint. For instance, the Holland America and Princess Cruise Lines (both owned by Carnival) use the product on their ships’ hand railings. Also, Burke recently sent a large shipment of Silver Bullet to a Pakistan hospital, for use in their HVAC system. Unfortunately, the shipment was delayed for three weeks – apparently the local police were not amused by the name and had to be convinced the product was not dangerous. Harris said an oil company in Saudi Arabia has tested Silver Bullet on the inside of oil piping systems, to prevent bacterial corrosion.

The recent focus on the health and environmental hazards associated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is also a competitive advantage for Burke. All their products use water-borne technology, instead of being solvent-based.

The 6,000 square-foot Burke facility in Ridgefield is home to seven employees and the company’s quality-control lab. It is here that Darrell Badertscher (chemist, vice president, and equal business partner to Harris), works on formulations. The products themselves are manufactured by “toll manufacturers” elsewhere in the United States. Most of the product components, such as silver, copper, resins and steel flake are also purchased in the U.S.

“Darrell and I have deep beliefs about manufacturing in our own country,” said Harris.

The outlook for the company is extremely positive. Harris said Johnson Controls (a leading provider of equipment, controls and services for heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, refrigeration and security systems) is currently installing new equipment (such as ovens and sprayers) to handle Burke’s coatings. This new account alone will bring a 30-percent increase to the number of gallons sold per month – which Harris said will bring company revenue to just under $10 million. Harris also said the company has a “growing partnership with Miller Paint Company” which has 54 locations in Oregon and Washington.

Just last month, the company brought on John Thompson as VP of sales and marketing. His role will be to travel extensively, meeting with the company’s five independent sales representatives and 1,000+ customers.

But Harris said the company’s growth will be focused.

“The market is so wide and varied with the stainless products – our marketing plan shows that you could go crazy and waste time,” said Harris. “We’re going to focus on the folks that really need superior products.” 

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