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Wellman, Inc.

Wellman, Inc.

595 Shrewsbury Avenue
Shrewsbury, New Jersey 07702
U.S.A.
Telephone: (732) 212-3300
Toll Free: (800) 639-7956
Fax: (732) 212-3344
Web site: http://www.wellmaninc.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1969
Employees: 2,500
Sales: $1.1 billion (2001)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: WLM
NAIC: 314999 All Other Miscellaneous Textile Product Mills; 325211 Plastics Material and Resin Manufacturing

Founded as a small, family-owned wool company, Well-man, Inc. has grown into a multinational Fortune 500 company involved in the recycling and manufacture of fibers and plastic resins. Through its two business units, the Packaging Products Group and the Fibers and Recycled Products Group, Wellman is a leader in packaging resins and synthetic fabrics around the world. Many of its proprietary productsFortrel, Sensura, PermaClear, EcoClear, and the HP 800 series resinsare trade-marked for their innovative qualities. In the 21st century Well-man was the worlds largest PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic recycler and intended to maintain this rank through ongoing research and development projects.

In the Beginning: Late 1920s to 1960s

Wellman traces its history to the Massachusetts wool combing company Hill & Nichols (later renamed Nichols & Company), established in 1927. Almost three decades later, in 1954, Nichols & Company organized Wellman Combing Company in John-sonville, South Carolina, marking the first plant of its kind in that state. Ten years later, seeing an opportunity to move into the burgeoning synthetics market, Wellman began to produce nylon fibers, mainly for use by the carpet industry. This was soon followed by the manufacture of polyester staple fibers, which were usually made into fiberfill to be used in such products as cushions, quilts, pillows, and parkas, as well as nonwoven and industrial applications. The fibers were produced from recycled raw materials converted from fiber and film waste.

Due to the steady growth of the plastics business, it was decided that the fiber operations should be separated from other activities at the Johnsonville facility, and the Engineering Resins Division was established in 1968. Using recycled nylon fiber and virgin polymers, the division specifically manufactured nylon engineering resins, which were marketed to a variety of industries including automotive, consumer products, and even electrical parts for use in such products as fans, headlight housings, aerosol valves, and lawn and garden equipment.

In order to reflect the changing nature of the firms business, the Wellman Combing Company was renamed Wellman Industries, Inc. in 1969, while Nichols & Company became Wellman, Inc. Three years later Wellman International Limited was established in Mullagh, Ireland, as a wholly owned subsidiary in order to produce polyester and nylon staple fibers for European markets. These fibers were manufactured from recycled raw materials, in part supplied by, ironically, other European fiber producers with which Wellman International was competing. The fibers were then exported, mainly to the United Kingdom and Europe.

Expansion and Growth: 1970s-80s

During the 1970s Wellmans growth was relatively slow since its main business was tied to the inconsistent supply of waste materials picked up from major chemical companies. By 1979, however, the company had begun its steady progression toward becoming a major company with the establishment of a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) soft drink bottle recycling operation in Johnsonville. The opening of the facility came at a time when consumers were becoming much more environmentally aware, which in turn led to a steady supply of waste materials to be recycled by the company. Wellman rightly forecasted that manufacturers would soon advertise the use of recycled materials in the packaging of their products.

By developing the proprietary technology to recycle PET bottles, the company quickly became a frontrunner in the recycling industry and eventually the nations leading recycler. Using empty soda bottles collected from states with bottle deposit laws, collection increased markedly from 1983 to 1990 when 30 states enacted laws either granting tax breaks and/or loans to postconsumer recycling programs, or had mandated separate collection of recyclable materials.

Sacks Industries, a Clark, New Jersey-based fiber broker and manufacturer of nonwovens purchased a 50 percent stake in Wellman in 1983. Operations of the two companies were subsequently merged and Tom Duff of Sacks Industries was appointed vice-president and chief operating officer. Wellmans nonwoven business grew out of two Sacks plants located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Commerce, California. The Charlotte facility used polyester fiber for the home furnishings industry to serve as cushioning and insulation in such products as bedspreads, comforters, and furniture cushions. Production at the Commerce plant utilized green polyester fiber, made from recycled green PET soft drink bottles by the Fibers Division, to make geotextiles used for soil reinforcement and filtration in various civil engineering applications, including landfill and pond linings, and the stabilization of roads and railroads.

Two years after Wellman and Sacks Industries merged, the two companies were purchased by a group of investors and company managers in a leveraged buyout. Tom Duff became president and CEO of the newly renamed Wellman, Inc. In June 1987 the company went public when its stock began trading on the NASDAQ exchange at a price of $10.25 per share. Wellman stock was offered on the New York Stock Exchange the following year at an initial share price of $17.50.

In 1989 Wellman entered into two arrangements that would not only ensure the company of a steady supply of recyclable materials, but a market for the resulting products as well. The first agreement, with Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), a large waste collector, allowed Wellman to buy all the household plastic the company picked up in curbside programs. The second arrangement was with Constar International Inc., one of the largest PET bottle makers in the nation. Constar bought vast amounts of used PET bottles for recycling and agreed to purchase much of Well-mans recycled plastic for use in its manufacturing.

Constar hoped to avoid complaints from environmentalists by using an estimated 25 percent recycled plastic in each of its bottles. In addition, through a 1989 joint venture Wellman and Constar (as Wellstar) began acquiring European bottle manufacturers with facilities in The Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom. Wellstar, said to be the largest PET plastic bottle maker in Europe, sold the bottles and then bought them back for recycling.

Also in 1989 Wellman acquired Fiber Industries Inc. from Hoechst Celanese Corp. Fiber Industries was a leading manufacturer of premium polyester textile fibers sold under the brand name, Fortrel. The company became part of Wellmans Fibers Division, doubling Wellmans asset and revenue base, and positioning the company as a leading producer of polyester fiber.

Bigger and Better in 1990s

In 1990 construction of Wellmans first international PET bottle recycling plant was completed by its European subsidiary in Spijk, Netherlands, to manufacture polyester fiber. Later that year Wellman acquired New England CRInc, another move meant to facilitate its use of recyclable plastics. New England CRInc was the leader in the design, construction, and operation of advanced materials recovery facilities (MRF). The company built the first highly-mechanized MRF plant in the United States and had exclusive North American rights to a patented German recyclable sorting technology, the Bezner automated materials sorting system. New England CRInc separated and processed commingled recy-clables, such as plastic, aluminum, and glass containers as well as paper collected from curbside recycling programs. By 1992 there were ten full service MRFs in operation and the company accounted for about 2 percent of Wellmans total sales.

By 1992 activities from the Fiber Industries acquisition had reached an estimated 82 percent of the companys total net sales. Wellman also had fiber producing facilities located in Fayette-ville, North Carolina, and Darlington, South Carolina. Wellman also made two more acquisitions that furthered the companys manufacturing and marketing capabilities. A newly completed polyester fiber plant located in Marion was purchased, in addition to Creative Forming, Inc. (CFI), the largest user of recycled PET in the thermoforming market. CFI custom designed, manufactured, and marketed thermoformed plastic packaging products from virgin and recycled PET and other materials. The purchase of CFI enabled Wellman to enter the high growth PET packaging market, while providing another means of using the companys virgin and recycled PET materials. By the end of 1992, with net sales topping $828 million, Wellman manufactured more than a quarter of the nations staple fiber and 13 percent of its partially-oriented yarn (POY) fibers.

Company Perspectives:

Wellman, Inc., an international Fortune 1000 corporation, sets the standard as a manufacturer of fibers, plastic packaging and engineering resins made from both virgin and recycled raw materials.

By the mid-1990s Wellman aggressively continued to expand, with plans to triple its PET output and operations both domestically and abroad. One step in this direction was the 1995 purchase of Akzo Nobel, a Netherlands-based PET manufacturer; another was Wellmans $400-million plan for a new polyester production plant in Pearl River, Mississippi, with an annual capacity of over 450 million pounds of PET products and over 225 million pounds of polyester fiber. Next came a major coup: Wellman beat out DuPont for a lucrative recycling contract with Ford Motor Company in 1996, to supply the automotive giant with nylon fibers for use in Windstar minivan engine fans. As Wellman was busy with construction plans for its Mississippi plant and began supplying recycled nylon to Ford, it was hit by spiraling prices for polyester and a strike in its Ireland manufacturing facility. Despite sales over the $1 billion mark, Wellman faced a loss in the third quarter and was forced to refinance its debt on the new Pearl River plant.

The last year of the century brought both highs and lows for Wellman. The long-awaited Pearl River plant finally commenced operations, after several construction delays, in the second quarter. Wellmans elation was replaced by woe when electrical problems forced its Palmetto, South Carolina, PET facility to close. The effects of power outages and surges not only caused equipment damage and failure but a significant decrease in PET productionaround 50 million poundsand a third quarter loss for the company of nearly $9 million. Luckily, the Pearl River plant took up some of the manufacturing slack and allowed Wellman to meet most of its commitments. At year-end, Wellman posted net sales of $935.4 million, down from the previous years $968 million.

Wellman in the 21st Century

While the Pearl River operation was strong with its PET recyclables, its stable fibers, used in clothing and textiles, did not fare so well. In late 2000 Wellman announced it was suspending stable fiber production at Pearl River and consolidating operations with its Palmetto plant in South Carolina. The cessation of this part of its business, however, had no affect on PET production, which continued to grow both domestically and abroad. Yet with this growth came fierce competition, and Wellman was forced to raise prices several times to keep ahead of high costs and a fluctuating market. While net sales for 2000 topped $1.1 billion and income had climbed to just shy of $63 million (up from 1999s loss of $6.1 million), Wellman was faced with several hurdles in the coming year.

A probe by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into price fixing put Wellman and most of its competitors on edge in 2001 and 2002. Wellman, as well as DuPont, KoSa, and Nan Ya Plastics, cooperated with government officials investigating pricing practices from September 1999 to January 2001. Concerned only with polyester stable fibers used in the clothing and textiles industries, it was true that Wellman and its rivals had each raised prices to offset rising manufacturing costs and raw materials. It was in Nan Ya Plastics case, however, that the DOJ believed there was a criminal conspiracy to fix prices and consequently indicted a former manager in September 2002.

With the DOJ investigation behind it, Wellman concentrated on the future. The company had decided to exit the POY (partially-oriented yarn) business and also sold its two polyester staple plants in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Marion, South Carolina. The Pearl River plant had operated at limited capacity for a time and its staple fiber output sat idle for much of 2001, though Wellman planned on renovating the facility for PET resin use. On the positive side, both of Wellmans business unitsthe Packaging Products Group and the Fibers and Recycled Products Grouphad exciting new products either already in use or in the testing stages. The HC 800 series packaging resins were both innovative and well received by plastic bottle manufacturers for soda pop, juice, and water; while EcoClear, for environmentally conscious customers, continued to be a bestseller. Over in the Fibers division, Wellmans new cottonlike fabric, Sensura, was already a hit with such apparel companies as Champion, Levi Strauss, and Eastern Mountain Sports.

Another fiber innovation, called Holofiber, also had company officials and industry insiders excited in late 2002. For use in activewear, these specially designed hollow fibers were injected with a polymer that when touching the skin allowed capillaries to relax and expand, which in turn gave athletes more strength and endurance. Though Holofiber was only in the earliest stages of testing, the results were promising. If Holofiber maintained its success in subsequent testing, Well-man could indeed revolutionize the activewear and athletic apparel markets.

Through the years, Wellman had its share of ups and downs but far more success than the reverse. By the end of 2002 the company not only had new proprietary products coming to national attention, but a stable of existing products used throughout the world for packaging and textile needs.

Principal Subsidiaries

Wellman International Limited.

Principal Operating Units

Packaging Products Group; Fibers and Recycled Products Group.

Key Dates:

1927:
Hill & Nichols (later Nichols & Company) wool combing company is established.
1954:
Wellman Combing Company is created, opening its first plant in South Carolina.
1964:
The company begins manufacturing nylon fibers, mostly for use in carpeting.
1969:
Wellman Combing Company is renamed Wellman Industries, Inc. and parent Nichols & Company becomes Wellman, Inc.
1983:
Half interest in Wellman is bought by New Jersey s Sack Industries, then the companies merge.
1985:
A leveraged buyout creates a new Wellman, Inc., with Thomas Duff as chief executive.
1987:
Wellman goes public on the NASDAQ market.
1989:
Wellman moves its stock to the New York Stock Exchange and begins several strategic joint ventures.
1990:
First international recycling plant is completed in Spijk, The Netherlands.
1992:
The company buys a new polyester fiber plant in Marion, South Carolina.
1995:
Wellman buys Akzo Nobel of The Netherlands.
2000:
Sensura fabric is introduced for use in apparel.
2002:
Holofiber tests well as an ability-enhancing fabric for athletic apparel.

Principal Competitors

DuPont-Akra Americas (DAK Americas); The Dow Chemical Company; Eastman Chemical Company; Nan Ya Plastics Corporation.

Further Reading

Americas Fastest Growing Companies, Fortune, April 22, 1991, pp. 67-76.

Breskin, Ira, Wellman Expands Its Polyester Portfolio; New Investments Target Growing PET Market, Chemical Week, February 1, 1995, p. 46.

Cook, James, A Perfect LBO Candidate, Forbes, October 31, 1988, pp. 74-76.

Feder, Barnaby J., Profits, and Problems, for Recycler, New York Times, January 8, 1991, pp. Dl, D5.

The History and Operations of Wellman, Inc., Shrewsbury, N.J.: Well-man, Inc., 1993.

Kemezis, Paul, Eastern Gulf States Build Momentum, Chemical Week, May 15, 1996, p. 30.

Koselka, Rita, Casey at the Bottling Plant, Forbes, August 6, 1990, pp. 88-89.

Leicham, Sharon, New Wellman Fiber Could Help Boost Endurance of Athletes, Outdoor Retailer, August 2002, p. 82.

Malone, Scott, Justice Dept. Probing Polyester Price Fixing, Womens Wear Daily, September 17, 2002, p. 2.

Merger to Beef Up Recycling, Packaging, January 1993, p. 18.

Nulty, Peter, Recycling Becomes a Big Business, Fortune, August 13, 1990, pp. 81-86.

PET Industry Reveals Its Changing Face, Chemical Marketing Reporter, February 1, 1993, pp. 5, 25.

Rising Costs Prompt Polyester Price Increases, Chemical Week, April 17, 2002, p. 39.

Wellman Links with Eastman for PET Expansion, Chemical Week, July 3, 2002, p. 9.

Wellman Sets Bottle Resin PET Expansion, Chemical Marketing Reporter, January 16, 1993, p. 9.

Westervelt, Robert, Electrical Failure Hits Wellman Profits, Chemical Week, September 15, 1999, p. 12.

, Wellman Idles Staple Fiber Unit, Chemical Week, December 13, 2000, p. 8.

Young, Ian, Wellman Enters European PET Business with Akzo Deal, Chemical Week, June 7, 1995, p. 9.

Dorothy Kroll

update: Nelson Rhodes

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Wellman, Inc.

Wellman, Inc.

1040 Broad Street, Suite 302
Shrewsbury, New Jersey 07702
U.S.A.
(908)-542-7302
Fax: (908) 542-9344

Public Company
Incorporated:
1969
Employees: 3,600
Sales: $828.2 million
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 2824 Organic FibersNoncellulosic; 2299 Textile Goods Nec; 5093 Scrap & Waste Materials

Founded as a small, family-owned wool company, Wellman, Inc. has grown into a multinational Fortune 500 company involved in recycling and the manufacture and marketing of fibersWellmans core businessand plastic resins. Wellman has attained leadership positions in these areas through a series of acquisitions and joint ventures. By 1992 Wellman was the nations largest supplier of anhydrous lanolin, third largest producer of polyester staple and polyester partially-oriented yarn (POY) fibers, and the largest and most advanced recycler of plastics.

Wellman traces its history to the Massachusetts wool combing company Hill & Nicholslater renamed Nichols & Companyestablished in 1927. In 1954 Nichols & Company organized Wellman Combing Company in Johnsonville, South Carolina, marking the first plant of its kind in that state. Ten years later, seeing an opportunity to move into the burgeoning synthetics market, Wellman began to produce nylon fibers, mainly for use by the carpet industry. This was soon followed by the manufacture of polyester staple fibers, which were usually made into fiberfill to be used in such products as cushions, quilts, pillows, and parkas, as well as nonwoven and industrial applications. The fibers were produced from recycled raw materials converted from fiber and film waste.

Due to the steady growth of the plastics business, it was decided that those operations should be separated from other activities at the Johnsonville facility. Thus the Engineering Resins Division was established in 1968. Using recycled nylon fiber and virgin polymers, the division specifically manufactured nylon engineering resins, which were marketed to industries that included automotive, consumer products, and electrical parts for use in such products as fans, headlight housings, aerosol valves, and lawn and garden equipment.

In order to reflect the changing nature of the firms business, the Wellman Combing Company was renamed Wellman Industries, Inc. in 1969, while Nichols & Company became Wellman, Inc. Three years later Wellman International Limited (WIL) was established in Mullagh, Republic of Ireland, as a wholly owned subsidiary in order to produce polyester and nylon staple fibers for European markets. These fibers were manufactured from recycled raw materials, in part supplied by, ironically, other European fiber producers with which WIL was competing. The fibers were then exported, mainly to the United Kingdom and Europe.

During the 1970s Wellmans growth was relatively slow since its main business was tied to the inconsistent supply of waste materials picked up from major chemical companies. By 1979, however, the company had begun its steady progression toward becoming a major company with the establishment of a PETpolyethylene terephthalatesoft drink bottle recycling operation in Johnsonville. The opening of the facility came at a time when consumers were becoming much more environmentally aware, which in turn led to a steady supply of waste materials that could be recycled by the company. Wellman rightly forecasted that manufacturers would soon advertise the use of recycled materials in packaging their products. By developing the proprietary technology to recycle PET bottles, the company quickly became a frontrunner in the recycling industry, and eventually the nations leading recycler. Using empty soda bottles collected from states with bottle deposit laws, collection increased markedly from 1983 to 1990 when 30 states enacted laws either granting tax breaks and loans to postconsumer recycling programs, or had mandated separate collection of recyclable materials.

Sacks Industries, a Clark, New Jersey-based fiber broker and manufacturer of nonwovens, purchased a 50 percent stake in Wellman in 1983. The companies operations were subsequently merged, and Tom Duff of Sacks Industries was appointed vice president and chief operating officer. Wellmans nonwoven business grew out of Sacks two plants located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Commerce California. The Charlotte facility uses polyester fiber to make high-loft bonded battings for the home furnishings industry to use as cushioning and insulating in such products as bedspreads, comforters, and furniture cushions. Production as the Commerce plant utilized green polyester fiber, made from recycled green PET soft drink bottles by the Fibers Division, to make geotextile items. These products were used for soil reinforcement and filtration in various civil engineering applications, including landfill and pond linings, and the stabilization of roads and railroads.

Two years after Wellman and Sacks Industries merged, the two companies were purchased by a group of investors and company mangers in a leveraged buyout. Tom Duff became president and CEO of the newly renamed Wellman, Inc. In June of 1987 the company went public when its stock began trading on the NASDAQ exchange at a price of $10.25 per share. Wellman stock was offered on the New York Stock Exchange the following year at an initial share price of $17.50.

In 1989 Wellman entered into two arrangements that would not only ensure the company of a steady supply of recyclable materials, but a market for the resulting products as well. The first agreement, with Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), a large waste collector, allowed Wellman to buy all the household plastic the company picked up in curbside programs. The second arrangement was with Constar International Inc., one of the largest PET bottle makers in the nation. Constar buys a great amount of the used PET bottles that Wellman collects, and includes the recycled materials to make new bottles. In the meantime Constar International Inc., one of the largest makers of PET bottles in the United States, agreed to purchase much of Wellmans recycled plastic for use in the manufacture of their bottles. Constar hoped to avoid complaints from environmentalists by using an estimated 25 percent recycled plastic in the bottles. In addition, through a joint venture arrangement Wellman and Constar together acquired four European bottle manufacturers between 1989 and 1990, with facilities in the Netherlands, France, and United Kingdom. Wellstar, said to be the largest PET plastic bottle maker in Europe, sold the bottles and then bought them back for recycling.

Also in 1989 Wellman acquired Fiber Industries Inc. from Hoechst Celanese Corp. Fiber Industries was a leading manufacturer of premium polyester textile fibers sold under the brand name, Fortrel. The company became part of Wellmans Fibers Division, doubling Wellmans asset and revenue base, and positioning the company as a leading producer of polyester fiber. By 1992 activities from the Fiber Industries acquisition represented an estimated 82 percent of the companys total sales. Wellman also had fiber-producing facilities located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Darlington, South Carolina. It was estimated in 1992 that Wellman manufactured 26 percent of the nations staple fiber and 13 percent of its partially-oriented yarn (POY) fibers.

In 1990 construction of Wellmans first international PET bottle recycling plant was completed by WIL in Spijk, Netherlands, in order to manufacture polyester fiber. Later that year Wellman acquired New England CRInc, another move that was meant to facilitate its use of recyclable plastics. New England CRInc was the leader in the design, construction and operation of advanced materials recovery facilities (MRF). The company built the first highly-mechanized U.S. MRF and had exclusive North American rights to a patented German recyclable sortation technology, the Bezner automated materials sortation system. New England CRInc separated and processed commingled recyclables, such as plastic, aluminum and glass containers and paper collected from curbside recycling programs. By 1992 there were 10 full-service MRFs in operation, and the company accounted for about 2 percent of Wellmans total sales.

In 1992 Wellman made two more acquisitions that furthered the companys manufacturing and marketing capabilities. A newly completed polyester fiber plant located in Marion was purchased, in addition to Creative Forming, Inc. (CFI), the largest user of recycled PET in the thermoforming market. CFI custom designed, manufactured, and marketed thermoformed plastic packaging products from virgin and recycled PET and other materials. The purchase of CFI enabled Wellman to enter the high-growth PET packaging market, while providing another means of using the companys virgin and recycled PET materials.

Wellmans acquisition strategy laid the foundation for a 70 percent expansion in its recycling capacity set for early 1994. In addition, capacity for the Wool Division was expanded by almost 40 percent when the company bought the operations of its largest wool top customer in 1992. However, the next year, rather than following its former pattern of acquisitions, Wellman began a multi-year capital investment program to modernize and expand projects at the domestic fiber manufacturing, PET bottle recycling, and PET resin operations.

The key to Wellmans success has been that it supplies much of its own materials at low cost through its various virgin and recycling plastics divisions. Another advantage has been its manufacturing facilities that are flexible enough to adapt to product and market changes, necessary because recycling materials are commodities whose prices are subject to market fluctuations. Given Wellmans past record of creating divisions and subsidiaries that meet the changing needs of manufacturers and consumers, and the nations increasing attention to the environment, Wellman can be expected to continue its strong growth pattern.

Principal Subsidiaries

Wellman International Limited; New England CRInc; CFI.

Further Reading

Americas Fastest Growing Companies, Fortune, April 22, 1991, pp. 6776.

Cook, James, A Perfect LBO Candidate, Forbes, October 31, 1988, pp. 7476.

Feder, Barnaby J., Profits, and Problems, for Recycler, New York Times, January 8, 1991, D1, D5.

The History and Operations of Wellman, Inc., Shrewsbury, NJ: Wellman, Inc., 1993.

Koselka, Rita, Casey at the Bottling Plant, Forbes, August 6, 1990, pp. 8889.

Merger To Beef Up Recycling, Packaging, January 1993, p. 18.

Nulty, Peter, Recycling Becomes a Big Business, Fortune, August 13, 1990, pp. 8186.

PET Industry Reveals Its Changing Face, Chemical Marketing Reporter, February 1, 1993, pp. 5, 25.

Wellman Sets Bottle Resin PET Expansion, Chemical Marketing Reporter, January 16, 1993, p. 9.

Wellman, Inc. Annual Reports, Shrewsbury, NJ: Wellman, Inc., 1990, 1991.

Dorothy Kroll

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"Wellman, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Wellman, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/wellman-inc-0