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Rogers Foam: Staying Ahead of the Curve

June 2010

Rogers Foam, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, was founded in 1947 by James H. Rogers, Sr. Rogers had a vision: Latex foam furniture cushions. At the time, most furniture was stuffed with horsehair, and latex foam was a hot technology. As it is today, New England was then a hotbed of furniture making, with Leominster and Gardner the key manufacturing towns.

“By 1976, we had three factories and were hitting our stride,” says third-generation Chairman, Matt Rogers. That year, the company had an opportunity that would fuel tremendous growth and open the door to a new range of capabilities. Parker Brothers, in nearby Salem, needed a manufacturer for its latest foam toy, the Nerf Ball.

“The advantage we had was our ability to engineer a specific machine to manufacture the ball,” Rogers says. “It took off and we were producing them in the millions. Through the years, we’ve manufactured Nerf Footballs, Nerf Darts, Nerf Arrows and more. The lesson we learned from the experience is that we had the ability to build custom equipment for a range of specialty products.”

When Rogers refers to a range, he means it. The company manufactures everything from shoe insoles and foam parts for electric car batteries, to ink jet printer cartridge foam inserts and high-end cosmetic applicators. Today, Rogers Foam serves a diverse array of industries, including automotive, high-tech, medical, consumer products, transportation, sports and leisure and military. The company employs more than 500 people at 10 facilities in the U.S., Mexico and Asia. “We even recently opened a plant in Flint, Michigan, where few operations have kicked off in recent years,” adds Rogers.

While growth has been a constant for Rogers foam, 2009 was a challenging year. “Like many businesses, sales were down and inventory wasn’t moving as quickly as it needed to,” notes Rogers. “Our previous bank had been our financial partner for more 20 years. Suddenly they didn’t want to lend us any more money, telling us we’d capped our credit limit. Fortunately, Salem Five rose to the challenge. They said, ‘We understand you. We can handle this.’”

“We’ll continue to grow by getting into more elaborate assemblies and doing more tooling and custom work,” Rogers continues. “If it’s difficult for others to make, we’ll make it. And in Salem Five, we know we have a partner that understands our business and responds quickly, when opportunities arise and make good business sense. We don’t always have a budget, but we know we’ll succeed, and our bank trusts us.”

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