Edward Polen, president and CEO of EMCO Chemical Distributors Inc.

    Edward Polen
    EMCO Chemical Distributors, Inc.  
    Title: President and CEO   
    Address: 8601 95th St., Pleasant Prairie  
    Industry: Packaging and distribution

    Edward Polen started a chemical packaging and order company out of his Highland Park, Ill. home in 1971. He had one employee and one truck.

    In 2011, the same company was the seventh largest chemical distributor in the United States. It employed more than 400 people, and had reached $297 million in sales.

    “We’ve grown by adding quality people and new product lines,” Polen said. “We’ve expanded our ability to package different products and more products more efficiently. We do it right the first time and our customers realize the value we bring to them.”

    More than 4,000 products are sold and distributed through EMCO Chemical Distributors Inc., including alcohols, acids, dry chemicals and various raw materials including paint, graphic arts and personal care items.

    Edward Polen with crew in front of a YouthBuild Lake County home they built. Here, the team accepts a $700,000 check from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    There are four divisions within the company: Manufacturing and Chemical Distribution, Chemical Blending and Packaging, Fine Ingredients and Waste Services.

    In 2013, the company relocated and expanded its corporate headquarters and manufacturing and distribution operations by moving from North Chicago, Ill. to a 260,000-square-foot facility in Pleasant Prairie. The 30-acre site was completely retrofitted to serve the company’s needs.

    “We were really cramped in North Chicago,” Polen said. “We began a proactive search for a facility that would allow us greater capacity for rail siding and the facility in Pleasant Prairie was a great fit for our needs.”

    Edward Polen in 2005 planting the tree at the first home YouthBuild Lake County built on Sherman Avenue in North Chicago.

    The move split the company’s distribution and packaging facilities into two locations; one in North Chicago and one in Pleasant Prairie.

    “It’s like taking a plant that’s pot bound, breaking it in two and planting them again in their own pots,” Polen said. “Both businesses have blossomed beautifully.”

    The Pleasant Prairie location includes 10 miles of stainless steel pipe, 1.1 million gallons of capacity for bulk storage, a clean room built to ISO 8 Class 100,000 standards for food-grade packaging, a warm room, three indoor truck scales, capacity for 26 rail cars and a fully staffed lab with technical services.

    The Pleasant Prairie plant joins the company’s other locations in Columbia, Ill.; Minneapolis; Mishawaka, Ind.; and Toronto.  The company is also in the process of opening a new waste services facility in Kenosha.

    Polen believes having a business in a community makes it a responsibility of the company to give back to that community. He co-founded a YouthBuild Lake County program in Illinois that helps low-income youth work full-time to learn job skills while earning their GEDs or high school diplomas.

    The company is also involved in the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and the Kenosha Kingfish baseball team.

    “It’s our responsibility to promote wellbeing in the communities where we’re located,” Polen said. “We’re looking forward to finding more opportunities in the Kenosha County area to get involved in.”

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