Then & Now: Ex-banker now Missouri manufacturing executive

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 369 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Scott Franklin’s banking career spanned two states and more than 25 years. As a manufacturing executive, though, he’s only getting started.

In April 2017, Franklin went to work as CEO of Springfield, Mo.-based United Poly Systems LLC (UPS), a manufacturer of made-to-order high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe. He was recruited to the job by the company’s co-founders, Jim Massengale and Bert Bridges.

“I loved banking and had a blast. I didn’t leave because I didn’t like it,” Franklin, 51, said in a recent interview. “But I was intrigued by their offer. I was always impressed with their performance and how they’d done.”

The men had become friends several years earlier while Franklin helped arrange the SBA financing to get the company off the ground in 2011. Franklin made many friends along the way during his career as a veteran banker. Born and raised in Fayetteville and a University of Arkansas graduate in 1990, he got his start in his hometown, working for McIlroy Bank & Trust.

In 1997, he was a senior vice president at Bank of Rogers. That same year, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal selected Franklin as a member of its first-ever Forty Under 40 class.

Over the next 20 years, Franklin built a strong resume in the financial services industry. After 12 years at Bank of Rogers — which was acquired by First National Bank of Fort Smith in 2004 — Franklin spent two years (2007-2009) as president and CEO of the former Pinnacle Bank in Rogers.

His path to Missouri in 2010 can be traced back to his time at Bank of Rogers. The owner of one of the bank’s vendors, a software company called Datalink, was also a board member at Liberty Bank, a $1 billion-asset lender in Springfield.

“He thought I would be a good fit for the bank’s job opening as a chief credit officer,” Franklin said. “Northwest Arkansas was home, but the more I learned about the bank, the more I liked it. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Franklin’s last banking job in Missouri was a regional president at Hawthorn Bank in Springfield, the wholly-owned subsidiary of publicly traded holding company Hawthorn Bancshares Inc. He spent four years there before departing in the spring of 2017.

“Left on great terms. I still bank there,” Franklin said. “There were no negative feelings toward them or banking.”

At UPS, Franklin presides over a $100 million company, and profit margins have increased from 8% to 25% in the past two years. In addition to its headquarters site in Missouri, the company has a second manufacturing facility in Albuquerque, N.M., with about 100 employees combined between the two.

Franklin said a variety of markets use HDPE pipe including telecommunications, power utility, electrical, and oil and gas. The product demand continues to expand as initiatives to improve and expand infrastructure are implemented.

Expansion is undoubtedly part of the UPS strategy. The business took on an equity partner in June that should accelerate the growth. Industrial Opportunity Partners, a private equity firm based in Chicago, acquired UPS in partnership with the existing management team. The companies did not disclose terms of the transaction.

“We have a plan to take us to a $200 [million] to $250 million company within the next five years, but those plans are going to cost money,” Franklin said.

Franklin said the growth strategy would also include acquisitions.

“We are looking at a company right now on the East Coast that would give us a nationwide presence,” he said. “We’re also adding two lines in our New Mexico plant that will double our production capacity by next spring. We’ll also be adding lines at our Springfield facility.”

When time allows, one of Franklin’s hobbies is riding dirt bikes, an interest he’s had for years. “I still ride, but haven’t raced as much the past two years,” he said. “I would like to get back into Enduro racing.”

Looking back on the 22 years since his Forty Under 40 honor, Franklin reflected on his children. They were 5 and 1 in 1997. Franklin just walked his daughter down the aisle in June. His son is pursuing a master’s degree at Missouri State.

“I am as proud as can be of those two kids,” he said.

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