TMP Technologies Inc And Shoe Polish Story

Anyone lying awake nights wondering who makes those little in-the-bottle shoe polish applicators or similar foam dispensers can rest easy. The answer is TMP Technologies Inc. of Buffalo.

“We think we’re the largest manufacturer of liquid shoe polish applicators in the world. We make 100 million of them a year and export them to 45 different countries. We used it to grow the business in the 1960s and ’70s,” says Jeffrey Dorn, current president of TMP Technologies.

But applicators for Kiwi shoe polish are just the tip of the iceberg for this growing company that employs about 100 at Buffalo headquarters and 50 more at its Advanced Foam Products Division in the Village of Wyoming, Wyoming County.

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Just as the shoe polish applicator is concealed, TMP’s other products are well hidden from public view, and its brand name doesn’t appear on any store-bought goods or in catalogs. That’s because TMP sells foam, plastic and rubber components to other manufacturers who use them in their products or for packaging material.

“Most people never see our products,” Dorn says.

While many TMP products such as the shoe polish applicator wind up as consumer goods produced by various manufacturers, others become components in office machines such as laser printers, copiers or facsimile equipment. Production of medical and laboratory products from polyurethane foam includes sterilized prep swabs, wound dressings, surgical tray inserts, intravenous accessories, anatomically contoured orthopedic accessories and test tube holders.

Other products include scouring pads, upholstery cleaners, spill containment pads, bathroom floormats, cleaning utensils, make-up applicators, sponges, arts and crafts utensils and ergonomic office accessories.

“TMP was founded in 1954 as the Magic Lineholder Co. and its first product was a patented clothesline holder featuring a pulley-like device fabricated from metal,” Dorn recalls.

As additional products were developed, including a patented foam mop, the name was changed to Truly Magic Products to reflect growing diversity.

“There were a lot of specialties in foam and plastic,” Dorn says of the early days. “But the mops got the company into the cellulose and foam sponge business. It started in household products, but we moved into business machines and related products.”

He adds: “We make components for paper feeders, toner applicators, faxes and mail processing machines. We’re now world-class suppliers to such companies as Xerox, Kodak, Lexmark, Canon, Hewlett Packard, Crayola and Goodyear.”

Crayola? The people who make crayons?

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“Sure. We manufacture water color foam paint brushes for their Crazy Painter Kit,” he says.

Dorn started at TMP in 1976, worked there for several years, left and returned in 1990. Three years later Ace Assad, the owner of what was then a family business, died and Dorn, along with Donald Pfister, vice president for manufacturing, and Gary Ashe, vice president for sales and marketing, bought the company from the family.

The name was changed to TMP Technologies to project the image of innovative business.

Since then, TMP’s sales have increased at a 20 percent annual rate, and 35 jobs have been added. In dollar volume, sales climbed from $9.6 million in 1992 to nearly $11 million in 1993 and $12.5 million last year. In 1995, sales are projected to be about $15.5 million, Dorn says.

Much of TMP’s recent growth has been attributed to the Advanced Foam Products Division called Adfoam in the Village of Wyoming. Established in 1976 primarily as a supplier for Truly Magic, it has evolved into a divisional operation as a manufacturer of foam and injected molded rubber products. About 60 percent of the production is outside business now, much of it foam for the packaging industry, injection rubber molding for the power transmission industry and resistance bands for Goodyear’s exercise machines.

The foam packaging is particularly useful for packing and storing high value, sensitive, hydrolytic or scientific products. It also can be used as sound dampeners, insulation, gaskets, seals and particulate barriers.

Dorn says that in recent years TMP has been concentrating on boosting its export sales, which account for 35 percent of output, an effort that will continue.

“There are a lot of opportunities in foreign markets for our niches, and within the past year we have become the first domestic supplier to Canon-Japan,” Dorn says.

TMP plans to focus on the arts and crafts market, he adds.

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