Local foam manufacturer pivots in midst of challenging year

Although the past year has forced a manufacturing facility in Dubuque to adapt and take on new projects, it has adjusted and continues to serve as a major producer of foam-infused materials sold locally and nationwide.

“Nobody wished or saw this pandemic unfolding the way it did last year, coupled with volatility in the economy,” said Dan McDonald, vice president of existing business with Greater Dubuque Development Corp. “John (Jackson) and his team here in Dubuque just did an amazing job adapting, being resilient (and) being nimble.”

FXI, formerly known as Innocor Foam Technologies, is the No. 1 polyurethane foam manufacturer in North America, said Dubuque plant manager John Jackson. Innocor completed its merger with FXI in February 2020 in an effort to expand its footprint and now has locations in more than 35 states.

“We are the leading inventor of new foam technologies from cooling jelly to any of your memory foam that is used throughout the industry,” Jackson said.

The foam that comes to FXI’s Dubuque location in Dubuque Industrial Center South is morphed into seating for pontoons in Missouri, Jackson said. FXI in Dubuque also works with upholstery companies in the area as well as Dubuque manufacturer Rite-Hite, which sells docks seals or dock shelters, said Sara Everts, director of corporate marketing and communications at Rite-Hite.

“We are manufacturers and distributors of loading dock equipment and many different industrial types of equipment used in factories and warehouses,” she said.

The shelters and seals are used to close or cover the opening of loading docks and protect them from weather, insects or anything that could potentially damage the inside of a facility or trailer.

One of FXI’s major contracts was with Flexsteel Industries, but when Flexsteel shuttered its Dubuque facility, FXI took a pretty big hit, Jackson said. FXI went from 26 employees down to nine.

“Basically by one (company) leaving, our sales were almost cut in half, and we lost two-thirds of our workforce,” he said. “We had to make our cuts to stay viable company-wise.”

Jackson said at the time the company lost Flexsteel, it began working with other companies in Missouri who sell pontoon boats. He said FXI continues to find other businesses throughout the nation to contract with as it works to regain steady footing once again. Last year, FXI in Dubuque made about $2.7 million in sales.

“Sales are up, and we are continuing to push on,” he said. “We have been making samplings for other furniture companies. We continue to push forward.”

Right now, the company is stretched pretty thin at the location in Dubuque, and if it picks up any big contracts, it will need to hire additional workers. At this time, Jackson said he is not sure how many FXI would look to employ.

After more than two decades with the company, Jackson said what he enjoys most about working at FXI is the versatility of the job. Not only does FXI manufacture many products but also works with companies throughout the United States.

“I just enjoy the diversity that it has in all the products that we deal with and move through,” he said. “We can supply from the automotive industry, to the boating industry, to the bedding industry to your commercial and residential home furnishings.”

McDonald said FXI’s diversity is what gives it strength and has helped it maintain its position as a leading foam manufacturer throughout the nation.

“They are just incredibly valuable pieces of the puzzle for Midwest manufacturing and in Dubuque, they have key customers here,” he said. “It’s great to have a key piece of that supply chain in Dubuque, Iowa. It makes things easier for us, not harder for us. We are lucky to have them. They just do a fantastic job and have always been great to us.”