Organizations Plan for Future Growth

by WOHe

In recent years, two Korean-made brands of solid surface
materials, Samsung Staron and LG Hi-MACS, have emerged as serious
market players in the United States. Both companies are major
sponsors of the International Solid Surface Fabricators Association
(ISSFA), and offer products based on acrylic resins, as does the
market leader, DuPont Corian.

DuPont itself has long been active in the Asian solid surface
market, manufacturing Corian in Toyama, Japan and Ulsan, Korea in
addition to its U.S. plant in Buffalo, New York. This past March,
in a major development, DuPont acquired Guangzhou Montelli,
manufacturer of Montelli, China’s leading brand of solid surface
material. Included in the acquisition are manufacturing facilities
in two cities that now employ about 400 people. DuPont plans to
continue and improve marketing in the People’s Republic of China,
and share marketing infrastructure between the two brands in that

Montelli is distributed in the U.S. as well, though DuPont has
not acquired the U.S. distributor. Emphasizing quality products at
an affordable price, the U.S. operation sells directly to

I spoke with Louie Slape, owner of Slape Cabinets in Muskogee,
Oklahoma. His company fabricates and installs several brands of
solid surface material. Montelli is its best selling brand, because
he says that the company offers good quality and customer service
at a very competitive price. Slape is very pleased with his
business relationship with Montelli.

In my opinion, DuPont remains the undisputed solid surface brand
leader with Corian, outpacing other brands in name recognition
among consumers, reputation, customer service and product quality.
Inevitably, this has created market opportunities for overseas
competitors with lower labor costs capable of producing and selling
a good quality solid surface material at a lower price to a
different market niche. DuPont’s acquisition of Montelli allows the
company to profit from this segment of the worldwide market as
well, and is another example of the company’s formidable business

ISSFA Campaign
The ISSFA also has
ambitious plans for the future. It has launched a major consumer
direct awareness marketing campaign utilizing the Internet that is
intended to produce qualified sales leads directly to ISSFA

The association is working with, which will
produce a new Web site for ISSFA that will debut in the fall of
2004. Using technology developed by, each ISSFA
member company is being asked to complete a detailed company
profile online that will identify every county and zip code in its
market area, as well as its product lines and areas of

The campaign also involves working with the leading Internet
search engines so that any end user asking for information about
countertop installation or solid surface materials will be directed
toward ISSFA’s updated Web site. There, the consumer can easily
find a qualified ISSFA member eager to do jobs in their geographic
area, and the ISSFA member company will automatically be informed
of that consumer’s interest.

According to James Darois of, ISSFA has done
a good job of education and communication among its members. The
association now represents most of the best-trained and most
experienced solid surface fabricators around. However, ISSFA, like
trade associations in other industries, has been less successful in
helping its members grow their businesses directly by putting
qualified sales leads right on their desks.

For example, ISSFA’s current Web site lists links to hundreds of
member Web sites, but these are listed alphabetically, with no
information about the various companies’ geographic territory. It
is difficult, therefore, for consumers to find an ISSFA member
active in their metropolitan area unless the business name is
already known.

The challenge is not a simple one. When I typed the phrase
“solid surface fabricator” into Google, the leading Internet search
engine, it told me that 12,200 Web pages were possibilities. I was
pleased that the very first Google page contained links to this
magazine and to my personal Web site, However,
ISSFA’s Web site did not appear.

A second search for the very similar phrase “solid surface
fabricators” in the plural listed ISSFA’s Web site in the number
one position. What a difference a single letter can make! My Web
site and this magazine’s also appeared near the top of the second

There must be hundreds or thousands of possible search phrases
that a consumer might type in an attempt to find someone qualified
to install countertops for them. A successful effort will mean that
ISSFA will pop up at or near the top of the list the majority of
the time, and that enough information about ISSFA will be presented
to induce consumers to click that link.

Association Support faces
similar challenges of its own. Attempts to find a contractor online
can lead to a plethora of competing Web sites.

At one time, I planned on listing links to every known solid
surface fabricator on my Web site, and made considerable progress
toward that goal. I grouped the listings alphabetically by state,
and then by city within each state. I still respond to frequent
e-mails from consumers all over the country asking for help
resolving problems with solid surface installers, and do my best to
offer useful tips.

Over time, I concluded that the task was too daunting for a
small business like mine, and that a trade association such as
ISSFA was the logical choice to provide such a service. I hope that
ISSFA, in cooperation with, will be more
successful than I in achieving that goal.

I urge every ISSFA member company to register for this new
service. Fabricators who are not now members of ISSFA may also want
to consider joining. The organization deserves your support. Visit for information.

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