50 Years of Finishing Just BeginningMar 01, 2017 05:22PM ● By Makayla Gay
By John Jeter
Photography By Amy Randall Photography
The Roy family uses the slogan “Finish Strong” for their half-century-old business. But Roy Metal Finishing Co., which patriarch Donald Roy started during textiles’ reign in the Upstate, seems as if it’s just getting started.
Roy’s vision not only lives on, it’s expanding. Billed as the largest electroplating facility in the Southeast that uses primarily zinc and zinc-nickel alloy, RMF coats parts for automotive, agriculture, and other industries worldwide. In 2011, RMF bought 20 acres at The Matrix business and industrial park in Piedmont, just south of Greenville. That’s where the company built an 85,000-square-foot plant and warehouse. In late 2016, RMF added another 85,000 square feet for more rack and barrel plating lines.
Today, the company that started in Conestee in 1961 operates on three sites.
“To see one of our existing companies succeed to the point that it is able to continue to invest and create jobs here is a real reason to celebrate,” then-Gov. Nikki Haley told the Greenville Area Development Corp. last April. “RMF’s $16 million investment, and the 40 new jobs it will create, will make a difference in Greenville County.”
Now employing nearly 250 associates and contract workers, the family-owned company continues to make a difference in many lives.
“Family. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” says Cliff Roy, 70, whose parents, Donald and Cecile, started at the Conestee site RMF still uses, about five miles away. “That’s something to be fond of. We care about our people because they care about us.”
During the worst of the Great Recession, Cliff says, “In 2008 and 2009, we paid out more in bonuses than we had in good years because everybody participated. You reward your people. We don’t just take our profits and put it into the family bank.”
Cliff started with the company when he was 14. “My father had two jobs,” he says. “I would help him rack parts or plate parts, anything to help him in his business. It was just a three-man operation—my father, my mother, and myself, that’s how we started. To say we worked 60 hours a week would be an understatement.”
Cliff stepped aside as CEO on Jan. 1, 2016. In stepped John Pazdan, 54, as president; he’s married to Cliff’s daughter, Emilie, 48. She started working summers in Conestee when she was 16, helping Cecile run the office.
“She was awesome, a hard worker. She was a jack of all trades, she did everything. Without her, my grandfather would not have been as successful,” Emilie recalls of her late grandmother. The University of Alabama graduate, who worked for two years as a newspaper reporter in Florida before reporting back to her family’s company, is now director of risk management.
Her brother, Alex, 40, is director of sales and customer support. During a tour of the sprawling, cacophonous plant, he points out that of RMF’s 300-plus clients worldwide, roughly 75 percent are in the automotive industry. The rest of RMF’s Tier 1 and 2 supply-chain work comes from manufacturers that rely on the company’s processes and chemical controls that apply corrosion-resistant coatings to aluminum and steel stampings, castings, forgings, and extrusions. The company counts among its customers BMW, Caterpillar, and John Deere, to name a few.
“We have also begun focusing on the growing aerospace industry in the Southeast,” an RMF report says.
That’s a long way from the founding Roy’s textile-industry days, and Alex says the company continues to evolve. “A lot has to do with how successful the Upstate and Greenville has been, being on the I-85 corridor. Where we are, automotive has swarmed into the Southeast, so our growth has sort of mirrored that.”
Now, next-gen Roys—along with Pazdan—are branching out with such value-added offerings as warehousing and distribution, in large part to take advantage of its location just 22 miles from the Inland Port in Greer. “As we go through the next few years,” he says, “anything we can diversify into, we’re trying to do that.”
RMF’s corrosion-resistance processes may be best reflected in how rust-proof the Roy family’s legacy is and how that culture coats the entire company.
“The fact that it’s a family-oriented company, I get to see my president every day,” says Ryan Spencer 28, who started on the rack line four years ago and now is a quality engineer. “Those kinds of things really matter. You can see how that’s instilled through everybody in this facility.”