Petersen Aluminum Corp. is celebrating its 50th anniversary by honoring the first five decades of company history as it prepares for a bright future. Maurice “Maury” Petersen founded the company on Feb. 15, 1965 as an aluminum distributor in Chicago, then worked with his son Mike as the company grew to become one of the construction industry’s architectural metals manufacturers.
“Fifty years in business is a noteworthy milestone, and we’re thrilled to not only still be in business, but to be thriving,” says Mike Petersen, CEO. “Our ability to identify, plan for and adapt to a myriad of market opportunities has been a big reason for our success. I am proud to have taken the reins from my father and help build on the foundation he laid 50 years ago. This is an exciting time for Petersen Aluminum, and I think we’re in good position to tackle the next 50 years.”
The main key to the company’s success is the hard work of dedicated employees in every position at Petersen Aluminum. Petersen notes the importance of the company’s vast supply of institutional knowledge, with a management team that averages 34 years of employment and includes many who worked with Maury, who passed away in 1996.
Dedication and longevity can be found at the company’s five locations, too, where it is common to meet people who have worked for the company for 15, 20 and 30 years or more. Providing employees with a corporate culture that fosters professional development, personal accountability and an enjoyable environment is important at Petersen Aluminum. “We take pride in giving our personnel a chance to develop their skills in an entrepreneurial environment. I am proud of how many people have chosen to devote their careers to PAC,” he adds.
Customers, partners and industry friends wanting to acknowledge Petersen Aluminum’s 50th anniversary are encouraged to leave a message on Petersen Aluminum’s Facebook page.
Members of Petersen Aluminum’s executive management team average more than 30 years working at the company, and all are deeply invested in its success. President John Palesny has the longest tenure at 45 years, and cites several reasons for the company’s endurance.
“The financial strength of the company is a prime reason for our longevity,” says Palesny. “Maury Petersen, the founder of our company, had a mantra that he repeated often: pay down your debt. Maury grew up during the Depression and it had a life-long impact on his thinking about financial responsibility. While he was a risk taker when it came to business opportunities, he also believed in paying down debt whenever the opportunity arose. That attitude has been a part of PAC’s culture throughout the years.
“PAC has always given its people wide latitude in pursuing their objectives. We believe in local initiative and give managers free rein as to how they meet their goals,” Palesny continues. “We have excellent internal communications that are focused on how we can better serve our customers. Our people are confident in their abilities while keeping their egos well in check. Among my colleagues at Petersen Aluminum there is a closeness that few other organizations can match. Most of us have been here for a number of years and wouldn’t dream of working anywhere else. I think that says a lot about the management philosophy of Maury and Mike Petersen.”
Jon Snyder, vice president, also believes in the value of good people and their contribution to the success of Petersen Aluminum. “Maury believed that every employee is a salesperson for the company, and to keep your employees and customers happy. Maury always preached, ‘have fun, work hard and no politics,’” Snyder remembers. “Our company was built on a strong, professional sales-minded approach. We have found our niches along the way and worked hard to succeed within them, but have always been willing to change when necessary.”
Snyder adds that while Petersen Aluminum can be conservative and strives to operate without debt, the company isn’t afraid to take necessary risks, and when those efforts are financially rewarded, “We pour the rewards back into our business and our people.”
Vice president Mike Palesny recalls the company’s respect for and attention to the customer. “We may not be the lowest price in the marketplace, but we are always competitive in terms of customer service levels. And we pay attention to what the market wants. For example, at our early stages in the architectural marketplace, our focus was on anodized finishes. We recognized in the late ’70s that Kynar was the future and successfully made that tack. In the late ’80s and early ’90s we recognized the call for factory-formed roofing panels and dove in. Now we’re seeing the company focus on the entire building envelope, and of particular interest the exterior walls. I think our wall panel business will be a source of real growth for the company in the next 10 years,” Palesny says.
Mike Palesny hopes to see the business continue to grow and diversify both geographically and possibly through additional product lines. “We are a conservatively managed company and I think our future is bright. We’ve adapted to market shifts by paying attention to our balance sheet, paying off our debts and listening to our customers, which we will continue to do,” he notes.
Tom Bell, vice president, adds, “Of all the things that make Petersen Aluminum such a great company, none is more important than the talent and dedication of our employees day after day, for after all this is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage any company can process in this marketplace.”
Adapting, Investing in Quality
Adaptation is a critical skill for any business to possess, as Petersen Aluminum has demonstrated for 50 years. As technology changes the way construction professionals communicate and process information to meet critical project timelines, Petersen Aluminum continues to adapt to meet the needs of those professionals. For example, the company’s web site provides e-tools that include everything required to shop for, specify, bid, purchase and install its metal products, as well as apps for tablets and smartphones that accomplish the same goals on whichever operating platform a professional might need.
Petersen Aluminum also is committed to quality products and service, and can prove it. In 2006, along with its corporate partners Valspar and Precoat Metals, a formal quality control program was initiated. The QC program that was developed has greatly enhanced the quality and consistency of the product Petersen Aluminum brings to market. “As a result of this ongoing program, the product that goes out the door is as good or better than anything available in the commercial market, and field issues with our product have become practically nonexistent,” Mike Petersen says.
Petersen Aluminum keeps its focus on the future, including how to address external market forces that are sure to include sustainable construction, material supplies and prices, competition for materials, construction workforce shifts, regulation, consolidation and others. “We’ve been successfully navigating market shifts and challenges through our history and we will continue to do so,” Petersen says.
In February 1965, Maurice Petersen began operation of Petersen Aluminum as an aluminum distributor in Chicago. The concept was to distribute aluminum mill products for aluminum producers not having a distributor organization or outlets for their products. Two manufacturers of truck cabs and printing plates promised support in the new venture.
Business began in a pie-shaped office rented for $75 a month. The lists of partners and customers grew as did revenue. Early on, the company moved frequently as business grew. By 1967, the company owned a truck, a 60-inch cut-to-length line, a shear and a saw. An unofficial company motto evolved: work hard, have fun, no politics.
In July 1972, Petersen Aluminum relocated to Schiller Park, Ill., and acquired an aluminum anodizing line, a decision that launched the company into the architectural metals arena. The company continues to maintain an anodizing line today. During that period, the company developed its PAC-CLAD product line beginning with prefinished Kynar 500 aluminum and later adding prefinished PAC-CLAD steel. During the next two and a half decades, Petersen Aluminum grew its revenue and product line while expanding geographically, until 1994 when the company constructed and moved into its headquarters in Elk Grove Village, Ill., where it remains today. The architectural metals manufacturer also operates facilities in four branch locations including Acworth, Ga.; Tyler, Texas; Annapolis Junction, Md.; and Fridley, Minn.
Petersen Aluminum strives to provide high-quality products within reliable, dependable lead times. Its strong national sales base allows it to maintain large inventories and provide cost economies to its customers. The product line now includes architectural and structural roofing, metal wall panels, soffit, composite panels, edge metals, aluminum and steel coil, and flat sheet in painted, anodized and mill finish.
Long-recognized as an industry manufacturer of metal standing seam roofing products, Petersen also offers exposed fastener panels, flush panels, composite wall panels and column covers. All provide the well-known Petersen quality and are available in PAC-CLAD Kynar 500 finish in 38 standard colors on steel and 37 aluminum. Most colors meet LEED, ENERGY STAR and Cool Roof Rating Council certification requirements.