Windows of opportunity opening for manufacturer

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson

Even as Reynolds Polymer Technology continues to provide windows into life under the sea, Mark Johnson has different views in mind. Picture, for example, the unobstructed vistas over the Pebble Beach golf course or Manhattan skyline.

While the company engineers and manufactures acrylic panels for some of the largest aquariums and other water attractions in the world, its global vice president of sales and marketing remains on the lookout for opportunities in other markets. One opportunity could include panels offering what Johnson calls “big iconic views.”

The goal, Johnson said, is to increase product lines and in turn decrease the risks associated with downturns in one market as well as the consequences of fluctuations in the global economy. What happens elsewhere has an effect on the Reynolds Polymer facility and its work force of about 100 in Grand Junction.

“The critical path for us is going to be diversification,” he said.

Reynolds Polymer celebrated another milestone in manufacturing an acrylic panel for what’s billed as the largest underwater restaurant in the world.

The company made the panel for Under, a newly opened gourmet restaurant in Lindesnes on the southern tip of Norway.

At 36-feet wide and 13-feet tall, the panel affords diners a view of life in the North Sea. The restaurant slopes into the sea, and the dining room is located about 17 feet below the surface of the water. There’s room for 100 guests.

Reynolds Polymer provided panels for another underwater restaurant and a spa in the warm and calm waters off the Maldives. The project for Under was more challenging, Johnson said, in engineering and manufacturing a large panel that withstands the comparative ferocity of the North Sea.

While each project Reynolds Polymer undertakes is unique, Johnson said the company has developed a reputation over the past 30 years for taking on large and complex projects that defy imagination. They include the 75-foot-tall cylindrical aquarium in the Avia Park shopping mall in Moscow; Sky Pool clear acrylic swimming pool spanning two, 10-story buildings in London; and LUX-ZEPLIN experiment in South Dakota to detect dark matter.

What differentiates Reynolds Polymer from competitors, Johnson said, is the capability to engineer and even help design what clients conceive.

At the same time, though, Johnson said the market for clients that need acrylic products for large and expensive projects is limited and subject to economic fluctuations.

There’s been some demand for aquariums as attractions in such settings as shopping malls, Johnson said. But the market for large public aquariums in the United States has matured with one or two facilities in most of the big cities that can support such operations, he said. While China once offered an untapped market for aquariums, the same process has occurred there.

That’s prompted Johnson to look for opportunities to provide innovative products in other, larger markets. One such opportunity could be acrylic products offering a replacement or alternative for glass.

Acrylic panels afford an advantage, he said, because they can support their own weight. They don’t require the mullions that support glass panes, but also obstruct views.

That makes acrylic panels a good alternative for settings in which sweeping and unfettered views are desired, he said. That also applies to settings in which people are outside looking in — a distinctive lobby or atrium, for example.

Even as Reynolds Polymers continues to manufacture panels that provide a window into life under the sea, those panels also could serve as windows to other inspiring views, Johnson said. In the process, a proverbial door could open to long-term growth.