In 1975, on the second floor of a former textile mill in Cleveland, a chemist and a salesman joined forces to see what they could do with a business in the electroplating industry. Forty years later, the business started by Bill Rosenberg Sr. and Herb Geduld—Columbia Chemical—is one of the world leaders in zinc and zinc alloy plating additives.
Rosenberg (in the lab, top photo at right) and Geduld focused on research and private label manufacturing of zinc plating brighteners, including cyanide, acid chloride and acid tin. When the industry moved toward alkaline cyanide-free zinc plating, Columbia launched ColZinc ACF-II Process Technology, opening the doors to market under the Columbia Chemical name.
Chairman Bill Rosenberg, Jr. says that, though consolidation in the industry has reduced the amount of competitors, the competition is better than it used to be.
“We all have to be better,” he says. “Regulations and requirements are a huge deal. Heck, back in 1975 when my dad and Herb started the company, the EPA and OSHA were fairly new and both agencies were quite busy creating new laws and enforcement policies. So in a way, Columbia Chemical was started at a good time, because the company culture was formed around the need to satisfy all of these regulations.”
In 1992, the cyanide-free movement and increased exports brought another move to Brunswick, Ohio, as Columbia joined the ranks of ISO:9000 certified companies. Columbia Chemical now operates in more than 30 countries, with multiple joint ventures.
In 1997, Rosenberg, Jr. purchased Columbia Chemical and became CEO, building a research lab, sales office and warehouse to accommodate the growth. A 44,000-square-foot headquarters was built in Brunswick in 2008, consolidating R&D, manufacturing, technical support and customer service.
Brett Larick became president in 2010 as Rosenberg, Jr. became chairman of the board.
“Forty years in the surface finishing industry has allowed us to develop a loyal customer base, as well as a loyal employee base,” Larick says. “We have built a recognized brand image in the marketplace. Our transition to becoming 100 percent employee-owned has added to our reputation of stability and our commitment to customer success.”
Today, Columbia is a world leader in developing unique and environmentally friendly processes from pre-plate to post-plate, including cleaners and acid inhibitors to brighteners, chromates, topcoats and finishing aids. Columbia is expanding its product line into the decorative plating market this anniversary year with its NiCOL bright and semi-bright nickel plating processes and TriCOL trivalent chromium plating process.
Read more about Bill Rosenberg, Jr. in the End of the Line column here.
Originally published in the October 2015 issue.