Pavement sealcoating company remains at the top thanks to a dedication to be continually educated about the industry.

Pavement sealcoating company remains at the top thanks to a dedication to be continually educated about the industry.

There's more to pavement than meets the eye. A well-constructed thoroughfare will remain intact for years, unscathed by oil, water, weather or heavy vehicles. That's a feat of chemical engineering, and Columbus is home to a leading manufacturer of the sealcoatings that preserve the world's roadways.

Girish Dubey moved to Columbus to found STAR in 1986.

"I had to be in Columbus," Dubey says. "Being a state capital, and us being in the pavement maintenance, there's ODOT, which is a good source of information. Also, Columbus is so central," he adds.

"The benefit is having resources here at my fingertips, the contacts and also the logistics (which allow STAR to) serve customers all over the country," says the company's majority owner and president.

Dubey's pavement maintenance business was built around three main tenets: cultivate, innovate and educate. Cultivating relationships is the key to Dubey's business model.

STAR doesn't serve construction companies directly. Rather, STAR's business model is based on licensing its chemical technologies to independent STAR manufacturing plants based across the US and in China, India, Australia.

There are 15 licensed plants in the STAR manufacturing network. "These plants are licensed only to manufacture these specialty coatings," says Dubey. STAR manufactures and supplies those franchise plants with supporting products like track fillers, traffic marking paints and primers.

"Under the license, we are responsible for giving the whole nine yards for quality assurance," says Dubey. "When we sign up a new plant, we provide them the blueprints and all the technical details for setting up. We run full projections ... (and) we explore the market."

The plant network and STAR support is the real benefit to franchise plants, says Melissa Parkes-Miller, president and owner Star Seal of Pennsylvania, a STAR licensee. The "true family relationship" is the real value STAR provides its licensees, she says.

"We get the knowledge and support of plants that have been with the company for two and three generations, not to mention the leadership and profound knowledge from a founding father and pioneer in the industry," Parkes-Miller says of Dubey.

Dubey's culture of innovation keeps STAR ahead in a competitive and heavily regulated industry. When he started in the 1970s, the pavement industry "didn't know much about the difference in the coatings," says Dubey. "With automobiles, you have Chevys and Jaguars and such. The same kind of (distinction) exists in seal coatings."

STAR was born as Dubey saw a chance to pair his chemical engineering training and natural pedagogical skills.

Research and development are critical in the seal coating industry, says Al Schultz. Schultz owns Sherwin Industries, a STAR-licensed plant in Milwaukee and one of STAR's original stockholders.

"It can be a struggle sometimes in regards to all the competitors we're up against. STAR goes above and beyond to put proper R&D into many new and old products," says Schultz. "STAR also provides some of the best informative literature in the market," Schultz adds. "STAR is the very best at providing quality information to not only us as a licensee plant but our customers as well."

Dubey's educational outreach has put STAR on the map as an industry leader. Dubey is a tireless networker and marketer. He publishes case studies and expert columns, involves himself in trade groups and is responsible for developing STAR's strong online presence. STAR's international clients found the company through the internet.

"The people in the industry started reading. That educational process paid off," explains Dubey. "That's the reason for our growth in the industry: The education of the industry itself and supporting that with products that perform."

STAR is a founding member of the national Pavement Coatings Technology Council, a trade group based in Alexandria, Va., and Dubey is chair of PCTC's Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee. PCTC's research is used by members in their business operations and also "answer(s) questions that are often asked by governments (state, local, federal) about pavement projects. Addressing such questions is an important challenge facing the industry," says Anne LeHuray, PCTC director.

A recent example of Dubey's leadership in facing the industry's regulatory challenge is the company's participation in a research project currently underway by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health, says LeHuray. STAR's involvement in federal research has been a model for other PCTC members.

Over the next 5-10 years, Dubey expects to increase STAR's concrete sealant line to 50 percent of the company business (90 percent of STAR's business is currently in asphalt preservation). He also expects to expand STAR licenses in new international markets.

"If you talk to anyone in the industry, they know our name because of the quality control of our raw materials and the quality control of the surface products," says Dubey.

Kitty McConnell French is afreelance writer.