When Larry Snyder started his company 60 years ago, everything he made was fiberglass and most of it was for home and recreational uses.

He made hot tubs, showers, dune buggies and other products.

"He was kind of a pioneer in that industry," said Dave Gentry, chief financial officer of Snyder Industries.

In the 1970s, Snyder started using rotational-molding technology and switched to making plastic tanks. At one point, he built the world's largest rotational-molding machine. He also moved into more commercial industries, especially agriculture.

When he sold Snyder Industries in 1991, about 80 percent of its business was to agricultural customers.

Snyder still focuses on plastics today, but its markets have changed a lot.

It's still in the agricultural market, but the oil and gas industry has become one of its largest customers. It also makes tanks and containers for the industrial, food and beverage and water and wastewater industries, among others.

And it doesn't just make tanks any more. It also makes plastic pallets, racking and shelving and a host of other products. It makes a few steel items, but plastic remains its bread and butter, so to speak.

Snyder used to mostly make commodity products -- things that were mass produced and then sold. More and more, it does custom-molded niche products that are requested specifically by customers.

"We've expanded into a lot of new markets," Gentry said.

The company also has gone through several ownership changes. Since Snyder sold the company in 1991, majority ownership has changed hands almost a half dozen times, including three times since 2006.

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However, a core group of managers has remained in place, among them Gentry and Steve Hansen, Snyder's director of human resources.

"We're a pretty resilient bunch of people," Hansen said.

Its current majority owner, Los Angeles-based private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners, reportedly paid more than $800 million for the company in 2012. It has held onto it for more than five years now, nearly as long as the previous two owners combined, and Snyder is on firm ground and continues to expand.

Snyder Industries itself has eight manufacturing plants and 470 employees. That includes two plants and about 180 employees in Lincoln. Snyder and Norwesco Inc. make up Tank Holding Corp., which has 22 plant locations in North America.

"We're a much bigger company than most people realize," Gentry said.

And Snyder and Tank Holding Corp. are always looking to get bigger.

The companies continue to work to grow the businesses organically, offering new products to existing customers and moving into new markets to find new customers. But to expand their geographic footprint, they either have to build a new plant or make an acquisition, because shipping the tanks they make is very expensive.

"It's the nature of our business," Gentry said. "We're shipping air. You have to be close to the end market."

He said a likely next expansion focus will be the international market.

Through all the ownership changes and acquisitions, the core of Snyder Industries has remained in Lincoln. Company executives are based in Lincoln, at offices in Meridian Park at 70th and O streets. And all research and design of products is done in Lincoln as well.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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