business matters
James Munoz pulls washer fluid bottles off the production line at RPP Products in Summit Township.

Ramping up: Newly opened RPP Products makes and ships vehicle fluids across the country

Race Pro Performance Products, Inc. has come a long way since its beginning as a two-employee operation in 2006, and Butler County is playing a key role in the company’s goal of continued growth.

RPP Products, headquartered in Bloomington, Calif., is a privately held manufacturer and distributor of antifreeze, motor oil, windshield washer fluid, coolants and additives.

“Anything that is liquid and used for vehicles, we manufacture it,” said Eric Zwigart, owner and CEO of RPP Products.

The company’s newest manufacturing and distribution facility is located at 615 East Butler Road in Summit Township. The 180,000-square foot site opened in September and began production last month.

RPP Products has three other manufacturing facilities, located in Akron, Ohio, Little Rock, Arkansas and Phoenix, Arizona.

“Our Butler site employs 25 people, but we are looking for about 20 more,” said Zwigart, who grew up near Pittsburgh. “My brother used to live in Butler, and I became pretty familiar with the area. When we were looking for a new site near Pittsburgh to add to our business, Butler made the most sense from an economic and logistics standpoint.”

Since the opening of the Butler facility, RPP’s Zelienople property, which began operation over two years ago, has gone from being a distribution center to housing raw materials that are later used in production. Six people are employed there.

Eric Farnham is plant manager in Butler and also oversees the Zelienople site.

“We started out slowly, but are ramping things up now. Just the other day, we filled four truckloads of windshield washer fluid alone,” Farnham said. “We’ll be taking on the production and distribution of other products, too.

“Nothing’s ever as fast as everyone would like it to be,” he added. “But I’ve been involved with a number of these facility startups and this one is going exceedingly well. On some days, we’ll load between 20 and 30 trucks.”

Farnham said products made in and shipped from Butler can end up anywhere from the Carolinas to Maine to Illinois. Some end up in Canada.

The Butler facility has people employed in four different positions — supervisor, production associate, warehouse associate and maintenance. Manufacturing requires employees working one of three shifts while distribution is done in one shift.

RPP distributes products for national labels like Shell, Chevron, Pennzoil, Castrol, Mobil and Armor All, among others. It also produces its own line of Race Pro products, like those being made in Butler.

Destinations include hardware stores, grocery stores, convenience stores and private buyers.

“We’ve always said that we are a sales organization first and we want to expand our sales,” Zwigart said. “We’ve been able to add to our network to support that.

“We’re a bigger company, but are still small enough that we can make decisions quickly when needed.”

Zwigart was employed by his family’s business, Chalet Products, from 1999-2006 and advanced from sales manager to vice president of sales.

“My dad owned that company and it produced the same products that we do now,” Zwigart said. “I learned the business from him.

“He sold the company in 2006 and that’s when I started RPP. We had two employees to start and that first year, we made half a million dollars.”

Last year, RPP Products brought in $185 million and currently employs 185 people between its multiple facilities.

“Entrepreneurial spirit and vision are key,” Zwigart said. “You have to surround yourself with very capable people in upper management, people knowledgeable in the industry. We want people who can get us to the Super Bowl and not just the playoffs.”

The facility in Butler is being counted on to help keep RPP Products performing at a high level. Zwigart estimates that it will add $10 million to $15 million annually to the company’s earnings.

“The trust is there,” Farnham said. “He (Zwigart) knows what is going on here and that the job is being taken care of.”

For details on employment opportunities with RPP Products, email Rebecca at rweast@rppproducts.com.