Origins and Early Endeavors: PVS Chemical Solutions, Inc., originally known as “Pressure Vessel Service, Inc.,” has a remarkable history that traces its roots back to Detroit, Michigan, in 1945. Founded by Floyd A. “Nick” Nicholson and his partners, the company initially embarked on the journey of cleaning boilers and pressure vessels. This niche service proved valuable in post-war America, where industries were booming, and there was a growing need for maintenance and upkeep of critical infrastructure. These early endeavors laid the foundation for the company’s future evolution and success. However, the true turning point for the company came when Mr. Nicholson recognized an opportunity to pivot the business model. Pioneering into Chemical Distribution: Mr. Nicholson’s innovative thinking led to a significant shift in PVS’s business plan. Leveraging the company’s expertise and experience with hydrochloric acid, which was previously used in the cleaning of pressure vessels, PVS began delivering this chemical to other industries. This strategic move marked the company’s entry into the chemical distribution business and laid the groundwork for its future success.
Leadership in Sulfuric Acid Manufacturing: While the company initially focused on hydrochloric acid distribution, it was not content with resting on its laurels. In the 1960s, PVS Chemical Solutions, Inc. expanded its horizons and ventured into the sulfuric acid manufacturing space. This bold move set the stage for the company to become a globally recognized leader in the production of this essential chemical. The journey into sulfuric acid manufacturing was marked by challenges and complexities, but PVS’ unwavering commitment to its core values of integrity, quality, and customer satisfaction, known to the company as “the Nicholson Nine,’ continued to be its guiding light. The company’s dedication to delivering high-quality chemical products and exceptional customer service allowed it to navigate these challenges successfully.
Success in Chicago: PVS’ Chicago facility operates on a plant that is 130-years old this year, originally built by Chappell Chemical in 1893 with a riveting history behind it. “The plant was originally built here in the old industrial sector of Chicago in conjunction to service the industries around it, so it’s interesting,” said Dean Larson, President of the Solutions Division at PVS. “It really goes to show that if we hadn’t pivoted then, we would have been out of business a long time ago being as all of the supporting businesses have dissipated.” PVS has maintained most of the original buildings over the years, and on site each building is marked with the year in which it was completed, preserving its rich heritage. While outlasting the industries the plant was built to support is no small feat, PVS was able to do so through constant adaptation and expansion of their product line.
A Diverse Portfolio of Solutions: Today, PVS stands as a best-in-class manufacturer, distributor, and marketer of high-quality chemical products. The company has diversified its offerings to cater to a wide range of industries, including water treatment, steel and automotive, crop nutrient and processing, and electronic chemicals. PVS Chemical is not just a supplier but a partner that provides specialized solutions to its customers, addressing their unique needs and challenges. This has been the basis for success at PVS, and they are always looking for the next opportunity to expand. While PVS is one of many US manufacturers of sulfuric acid, they are the one of just two manufacturers that produce ultra-high purity sulfuric acid, and the company has its eyes set on expanding their production of ultra-high purity to support the booming semiconductor industry in the US.
Family-Owned and Operated: A Commitment to Values: One of the most remarkable aspects of PVS is that it has remained a family-owned and operated business since its inception, now in its third generation of leadership. This family-oriented approach has had a profoundly positive impact on the company culture. In a family-owned business, employees often feel a greater sense of belonging and loyalty, and it is very apparent that this is the case at PVS. “We’ve never had a forced layoff or a strike at this plant. So, for us, it all goes back to the Nicholson Family Values—we want our employees to believe that when they come to work here, they can potentially retire from here if that’s what their desire is,” said Larson. Sean Dunkle, Plant Manager expanded, “it is really evident how we take care of our people here when you look at how low our turnover rate is. I think it goes a long way when we do the right thing and care for those around us. If we take care of them, they’ll take care of the business, and that’s exactly what they do.” “We want our people to come to work and leave the same way they came in every day with no issues. It’s a hazardous product that we handle here so we have to spend a lot of time focused on the safety aspect of it,” Larson explained. The family’s values and long-term vision for the company are deeply ingrained in the company culture, fostering a commitment to safety, sustainability, and community above all else. This sense of unity and shared purpose has contributed to PVS Chemical’s success in building lasting relationships with both customers and employees.
Community Engagement: PVS has always recognized the importance of being a responsible corporate citizen. The company actively engages with the local community, supporting various charitable and educational initiatives. They have also committed to exceeding sustainability at the Chicago plant through their partnership with ESG on the Cogen Project which will use the wasted steam to generate power. The company has invested upwards of S14 million in the project with aims of eliminating over 12,700 tons of CO2 emissions per year, lessening utility interruptions from voltage trips, and reducing purchased water and chemical consumption. Through a multitude of efforts, PVS Chemical Inc has made a positive impact on the lives of many.
Conclusion: PVS Chemical Solutions, Inc.’s journey from a small pressure vessel cleaning service to a globally recognized leader in chemical manufacturing and distribution is a testament to innovation, adaptability, and a relentless commitment to excellence. Throughout its history, the company has embraced change and navigated through challenges, always guided by its core values. Today, PVS continues to thrive, serving diverse industries and delivering high-quality chemical products that contribute to the success of its customers worldwide. It stands as a shining example of how vision, determination, and a dedication to core principles can lead to lasting success and a legacy of excellence. As the only U.S. owned manufacturer producing ultra-high purity sulfuric acid, PVS not only meets industry demands but sets new standards for quality and innovation. Its legacy is not confined to the past; it’s a story of resilience, evolution, and a future where PVS continues to lead and inspire within the ever-evolving chemical landscape.
This post, Including the pictures, was originally published by Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Magazine (Fourth Quarter 2023)
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