The poor economy has hurt some of The Andersons Inc.'s business units, but the Maumee agribusiness may have a rising star in its turf products group.
Turf and specialty products, which underwent a major downsizing in 2005 as the company shifted away from making fertilizer products for other companies, has been regaining strength. In its recent quarter, the unit had operating profit of $3.1 million on sales of $45 million.
Company chairman Mike Anderson said the unit, which makes fertilizers for lawns and golf courses, is benefitting from patented products - specifically a dispersible granule that has been embraced by golf courses.
Tom Waggoner, president of the turf and specialty group, said that usually fertilizer for golf courses either ends up on golfers' shoes or birds eat it.
So, in 2004 the company decided to spend its marketing dollars on research and developed a granule that released nutrients with water. The process was patented and since then the firm has received 20 patents or patents pending on the granules.
In 2007, the company began marketing the dispersible granule (which it calls DG), launching a campaign with a superhero, DG Man, who had his own industry action figure and comic book.
"We looked around and decided we needed to do something more hip. So DG Man was created," Mr. Waggoner said.
Last year, The Andersons received a $5 million matching grant from Ohio's Third Frontier project to develop more products using granule technology. In awarding the grant, the state said it expects $300 million in sales and 100 new jobs over the course of six years.
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