Insights: Cleveland | Business Spotlight | Fall 2017

MVP Plastics CEO leads a culture of collaboration and giving back

Darrell McNair, CEO, MVP Plastics Inc.
By Kelley Gray

When Darrell McNair purchased Nescor Plastics Corp. with a private equity partner in 2000, he was continuing along an entrepreneurial path that was years in the making.

“It really goes back to my childhood, shoveling snow, delivering newspapers, cutting grass. I was always out there hustling,” says McNair, CEO of MVP Plastics Inc. “I believe that hard work provides an opportunity for success. You must put the work in. It’s like a bank – you can’t withdraw more than you deposit.”

Always a high achiever, McNair graduated high school at age 16 and was a scholarship athlete at Kent State University, ultimately earning his MBA from Baldwin Wallace University. His first official entrepreneurial venture was a paper distribution company he started with his father, a dentist, who served as his silent partner.

With corporate experience at IBM and Ford, McNair also acquired businesses in the home health care and medical supply, construction and retail industries throughout his entrepreneurial career.

His most recent venture was the purchase of Nescor in 2000, an existing plastics business. In 2008, he bought out his partner and rebranded Nescor as MVP Plastics Inc., a certified minority-owned plastics component processor headquartered in Middlefield, Ohio.

Predominantly a Tier 2 supplier of automotive parts, MVP Plastics offers custom design and prototyping, precision molding, decorative finishes, assembly capabilities, inventory tracking solutions and project management services. Over the past decade, the company has enjoyed exponential growth and earned a reputation as an industry leader, navigating challenges through collaboration and innovation.

MVP Plastics products
MVP Plastics offers custom design and prototyping, precision molding, decorative finishes, assembly capabilities, inventory tracking solutions and project management services.
(Photography by Toby Shingleton)

Hitting the brakes

Just one year after MVP Plastics was born, the company found itself in the middle of The Great Recession. Manufacturing and automotive businesses were particularly hard hit, McNair says.

“In 2009, the world was caving in,” he says. “It was bad for everybody.”

To weather the economic downturn, MVP Plastics made drastic cuts to its workforce.

“Not being able to retain employees was probably the most difficult thing I ever had to do — to tell folks that, tomorrow, they would not be employed with the organization,” McNair says.

While working to maintain his customer base, however, McNair saw an opportunity to form new partnerships.

“A lot of entrepreneurs emerged during that period because there were limited jobs,” he says. “I began working with individuals looking to develop new products. With our engineering staff, we were able to help move ideas off the backs of envelopes into finished states. It was exciting to help entrepreneurs get their products ready for market.”

Unique designs emerged from those collaborations, including self-locking mailboxes, coolers, paddles and even golf club grips. As the economy improved, MVP Plastics expanded to produce specialized components for applications including appliances, battery cases, medical devices and recreational equipment.

Expansion allowed the company to rebuild its workforce, too.

“As the economy began to recover and we started to redefine ourselves, we were slowly able to bring back some employees in key positions,” McNair says.

Rebounding demand

Even as MVP diversified into new markets, automotive components continued to dominate production runs. McNair saw the value in setting up shop closer to growing manufacturing sectors in southern portions of the United States and northern Mexico, so in 2015, he invested more than $1 million into a 30,000-square-foot large component processing facility for MVP Plastics in Brownsville, Texas.

“Manufacturers prefer supply chains that are geographically close, and the Texas plant allows us to capitalize on that,” he says.

Always striving to provide superior value and customer service, McNair has incorporated state-of-the-art quality control equipment, round-the-clock inspections and parts integrity validations into the company’s operations. In 2016, he further augmented services to clients with the acquisition of a mechanical design house in Oxford, Michigan, now called MVP Design and Engineering.

With enhanced design capabilities and an expanded engineering platform, the company can optimize assembly line ergonomics and efficiency for original equipment manufacturers.

“General Motors is launching a new transmission line, for example, so we will assist with the design,” he says. “In some cases, we are contracted to build the assembly cells, as well.”

Today, MVP Plastics’ partners include major automotive manufacturers such as Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Tesla, as well as appliance, retail and medical markets. The company produces more than 15 million precision parts annually, including air outlets, seat belts, cup holders, gaskets, bezels, brackets, seat-side shields and fuse covers.

What does the future hold? McNair’s vision for MVP Plastics involves moving into specialty niches in the automotive industry, such as producing safety-related components and circuitry.

“Smart car technology is in its infancy, and that is going to be a growing market,” McNair says. “We have positioned ourselves to take advantage of that demand.”

The company also recently invested in vertical injection molding at its Middlefield, Ohio, facility, enabling it to produce the circuit boards that power and propel electronic driving.

Paving the way

McNair is committed to inspiring vision, energy and desire in others, and that starts with his MVP team.

“I’m very loyal to my employees,” he says. “I believe people need to feel they are a vital part of the organization.”

As a result of that loyalty, MVP Plastics has experienced very low turnover since its inception. This summer, three employees had been there long enough that they were able to retire.

“That was a big deal,” McNair says. “I was sad to see them go but proud that I was able to provide an opportunity for individuals to make a living that allowed them to retire.”

Beyond building a positive corporate culture, McNair encourages employees to actively engage in their communities. He makes it a priority for his senior leadership to sit on nonprofit boards and to share their time and talents with causes they are passionate about.

Reflecting on his professional accomplishments, McNair says, “It’s important to me to give back where others aren’t quite as fortunate, and provide leadership and guidance at a community level.”

Darrell McNair in MVP warehouse
Darrell McNair, CEO, MVP Plastics Inc.
(Photography by Toby Shingleton)
“I believe that hard work provides an opportunity for success. You must put the work in. It’s like a bank – you can’t withdraw more than you deposit.” – Darrell McNair, CEO, MVP Plastics Inc.

Servant leader

McNair’s personal volunteer and philanthropic accomplishments demonstrate his commitment to leading through service. He serves as chairman of the Cleveland Port Authority Board of Directors, shepherding a $3.5 billion-dollar economic engine for the city and overseeing approximately 20,000 employees involved with shipping activities. The port’s bond financing program is also supporting dynamic local projects, including development of the Flats East Bank, a new Cleveland Clinic medical office building and garage on Euclid Avenue, the Cleveland Cavaliers player development center and headquarters for several local corporations.

In addition, McNair sits on the governor-appointed Minority Finance Advisory Board, serves as a trustee for Playhouse Square and formerly chaired the President’s Council, the premier African-American Business Economic Development organization, based in Cleveland.

“Cleveland has finally emerged from the shadows,” McNair says. “When people on the outside see your region in a positive light, it’s an accelerant for growth. If we capitalize on that national momentum, it’s going to provide vitality to our city and prosperity to our residents.”

Still, McNair sees room for improvement. He stresses the importance of expanding opportunity for minorities — particularly young African-American men – and points to dismal numbers measuring employment versus incarceration, economic disparities and high dropout rates.

With his characteristic boots-on-the-ground approach, McNair has established and endowed minority scholarships, founded the PC Scholars Program for African-American high school students and taken an active role with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Kenneth Clement Boys Leadership Academy and the Ginn Academy, Ohio’s only all-male public high school.

“As an African-American male who quite easily could have taken the wrong fork in the road at many points in my life, I feel it is my responsibility to nurture young men and provide opportunities that help them take the right path,” McNair says.

Making it happen

As a life-long entrepreneur, Darrell McNair is quick to point out that no one succeeds in business without great partnerships.

“You’ve got to have a supporting financial institution that can see your vision,” says McNair, CEO of MVP Plastics Inc. “I have been a customer with Huntington in one form or fashion since 2009. During that very difficult economic time, banks were shedding customers left and right. Huntington’s approach was, ‘We believe in you; how can we make this happen?’ They have been there with me, helping me grow and develop strategic networks with investors.”

Over the past few years, Huntington was instrumental in securing the capital expenditures financing necessary for the company’s Brownsville, Texas, plant. Most recently, Huntington financed a business loan that allowed for a large equipment acquisition. The bank also assisted MVP Plastics in completing real estate transactions that have helped it expand into new territories.

“Sean Richardson [Greater Cleveland regional president] has been a valuable resource, working with me to sustain my business, as were former Presidents Dan Walsh and Jerry Kelsheimer,” McNair says. “A strong banking relationship makes all the difference.”

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