POLYONE CORP. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
POLYONE CORP., a global corporation involved in the production of plastics, was formed in 2000 after a merger between the M. A. Hanna Co. and Avon Lake-based Geon Co. The M. A. Hanna Co. was formerly one of Cleveland's major iron-ore houses, which shifted into the field of polymers in the aftermath of the recession of the early 1980s. Hanna Mining evolved from Rhodes & Co., a firm established in the 1840s by Daniel Rhodes to mine coal in the Mahoning Valley area. It expanded into iron ore mining in the Lake Superior region in the mid-1860s, when MARCUS HANNA married Rhodes's daughter and joined the firm. Hanna and his brothers took over the partnership in 1885 and renamed it M.A. Hanna & Co. In 1922 it was incorporated as the M.A. Hanna Co., with offices in the Leader Bldg. As a part of the trend toward mine-to-mill integration in steel production, Hanna placed its blast furnaces, coke ovens, vessels, and most of its iron-ore properties into the Natl. Steel Corp. in 1929, and in return received Natl. Steel stock. In 1945 its bituminous-coal properties were put into the newly formed Consolidated Coal Corp. in return for Consolidated stock. GEO. HUMPHREY guided the company into a postwar period of diversification in the early 1950s, as the firm began production of high-grade iron-ore pellets and helped establish and manage the Iron Ore Co. of Canada. The company also began to mine nickel in Oregon and silicon in Washington and acquired interests in mineral companies in Latin America.
In 1958 one of Hanna's subsidiaries, the Hanna Coal & Ore Co., emerged as an independent corporation, the Hanna Mining Co. M.A. Hanna Co. continued as a mineral sales agent and an investment firm until it was liquidated in 1965. By the early 1970s, Hanna Mining was the world's second-largest producer of iron ore, after U.S. Steel. In the 1970s, Hanna entered the energy field, securing interests in petroleum, low-sulfur coal, and mineral-exploration companies. Believing that the name Hanna Mining failed to reflect the diversified holdings of the company, executives decided to return to the firm's original name, M. A. Hanna Co., in March 1985. At the same time, under CEO Martin D. Walker, the company began to divest itself of mining and energy properties in favor of acquisitions in plastics and polymers. This transition began following the M. A. Hanna purchase of the Burton Rubber Processing Co. in 1986 and continued with still more acquisitions in the polymer industry. By 1990, the company's plastics holding generated nearly $1.1 billion in annual sales. By 1993, over 99% of M. A. Hanna's revenue came from polymer processing and distribution. Of its 6,400 employees worldwide, more than 600 worked in northern Ohio. In 1994, M.A. Hanna moved its Cleveland headquarters from Erieview Tower into the BP Bldg.
The M. A. Hanna Co. continued to grow and by 1998, the, company's annual sales reached $2.3 billion annually. In 1999, Phillip D. Ashkettle was appointed CEO, Under his leadership, M. A. Hanna merged with polyvinyl chloride giant Geon Co, a former division of the B. F. Goodrich Co. that became a seperate entity in 1993. Hailed as a merger of equals, the new company, which would become known as the PolyOne Corp., was valued at $3.5 billion at the time of the merger and employed nearly 10,000 in its 80 plants located around the globe. Soon after the merger, the new entity shed some of its less profitable plastics operations, but the merger still proved neither smooth nor easy. By 2001, PolyOne announced that it would be looking to close as many as a dozen of its plants in a plan to save the newly formed company between $35 and $50 million by 2003. By 2003, annual sales dropped to just $2.6 billion and many industry analysts faulted failure among managers to integrate the former M. A. Hanna Co. into the new company, as well as stagnant sales among U.S. auto makers- a major customer for PolyOne's plastics. Later that year, the board of directors approved a 10% reduction in Chairman and CEO Tom Waltermire's salary as a way to further reduce costs. With a corporate headquarters in Avon Lake, PolyOne had nearly 10,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of $2.5 billion by 2004.