NIC Cerakote

NIC Industries, Inc. is not yet a household name. But its products will be familiar to anyone who’s wandered the car-care aisle at Walmart or shopped for protective trim, paint and tire coatings on Amazon. Quietly, White City-based NIC Industries has become a big deal. Founded as a powder-coating shop 40 years ago, it is now one of the 25 largest paint manufacturers in the country.

Most retail customers encounter NIC Industries through its Cerakote Ceramic Coatings division, which produces do-it-yourself coatings for home and auto use. NIC Industries has two other divisions, however. One, Cerakote, manufactures liquid ceramic coatings applied by trained professionals and hobbyists alike. The second, Prismatic Powders, manufactures high-quality powder coatings offered in more than 6,500 colors. Prismatic, indeed.

The company has come a long way since 1984, when it provided powder-coating to nearby metal fabrication shops, logging companies and auto body specialists from a backroad facility. NIC Industries now operates in five buildings covering about 100,000 square feet and plans to build a 125,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on an adjacent property.

The earliest of NIC Industries’ three divisions, Prismatic Powders, is a natural evolution of the company’s origins. The division was formed in the late-1980s to manufacture high-quality powder coatings and make them available in a color palette that rivaled those of large powder-coating manufacturers, says company Public Relations Director David Meador.

The division also distinguished itself by allowing customers to buy in small batches. While many powder-coating companies require minimum orders of 10 to 50 pounds, Prismatic Powders set a minimum of only one pound. That’s all many customers really need, says Meador.

(Powder coating, by the way, involves the spraying of powdered material onto whatever it is you’d like to coat. The powder usually consists of resin and a coloring agent. An electrical charge makes it stick, and curing – usually with heat – creates a powerful bond.)

Over the years, NIC Industries established contacts within what was at the time a niche industry: liquid ceramic coatings. Such coatings were used largely within the defense world, says Meador. But NIC Industries recognized the potential of thin ceramic coatings to confer a range of beneficial attributes to objects, including durability, chemical resistance, heat dissipation and even protection against ultraviolet light. So it set its chemists to work, and the Cerakote division was born in the 1990s.

In its early years, Cerakote largely served firearms manufacturers and hobbyists, who sought a durable protective coating that was thin enough to allow weapons to function normally. Cerakote’s customer base grew as it developed new applications, and its coatings are now used in many industries, including sporting goods, lifestyle, medical, automotive, aerospace and defense.

Because special training is recommended to apply Cerakote, the company has created a large network of Certified Applicators, whose locations appear on Cerakote’s website. Training takes place at NIC Industries’ White City location and at satellite training locations around the country.

Hand-spraying can be time-consuming and tricky, however, particularly when coating complex parts or large volumes of small parts. In such cases, Cerakote increasingly is applied by robotic arms developed by NIC Industries’ engineering team in cooperation with robotics manufacturer FANUC. NIC is set to become the 4th FANUC Authorized System Integrator in Oregon, and more than 50 Cerakote spray robots are now in operation around the world.

NIC Industries established its third and best-known division, Cerakote Ceramic Coatings, in 2019. It produces auto and home products that are aimed at the average consumer and require no special machinery or skill to use. In addition to Walmart and Amazon, they’re sold by Home Depot, Lowe’s Tractor Supply Company and Ace Hardware.

NIC Industries has grown in White City largely because that’s where it was founded, says Meador. But the location does have several advantages. Many employees are attracted to the region’s recreational amenities, and the climate is generally good. The proximity of Interstate 5 and, more importantly, Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport helps with both travel and shipping. Every year, hundreds of people visit NIC Industries for training. Meanwhile, most of the nearly 400,000 packages the company shipped in 2023 were moved by air.

Even successful companies have challenges. For NIC Industries, these include remaining competitive despite strict environmental regulations, a tough economy and supply chain difficulties. The company has met these challenges largely by innovating. It has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a pair of distillation units that allow it to recycle nearly all of its used solvents. It also has built a polymer plant to manufacture raw materials that it previously acquired from overseas sources that are vulnerable to supply-chain disruptions.

NIC Industries employs about 200 people with highly varied job responsibilities, including chemists, engineers and production workers, to name just a few. The average wage is about $75,000, says Meador, and it is a point of pride for the company that it provides good jobs for people who live, work, and play in southern Oregon.

NIC facility

NIC Industries operates in five buildings covering about 100,000 square feet in White City.

NIC Production

NIC Industries employs about 200 people with highly varied job responsibilities, including chemists, engineers and production workers, to name just a few.

NIC tanks

NIC Industries has built a polymer plant to manufacture raw materials that it previously acquired from overseas sources that are vulnerable to supply-chain disruptions.

NIC Facility storage small

NIC Industries shipped nearly 400,000 packages from its White City facility in 2023.