Expo Industries Inc.: Building Better Communities

In the 1920s Paul Gurrad opened San Diego Stucco Company on Market Street in San Diego, Calif. Inspired by the Panama-California Exposition, the name of the business was later changed to Expo Stucco Company. The business grew throughout the years, expanding from a manufacturer and retailer of exterior and interior plastering products into a large-scale distributorship for drywall, steel studs and other building products. The company continued to evolve, incorporating as Expo-Stucco Inc. in 1969 when the founder’s grandson purchased the business. The name was later changed to Expo Industries Inc. (Expo) in 1982.

In 1989 Expo’s current owner and two other partners formed an affiliated company, International Home Exports Inc. (IHE), to expand Expo’s product offerings on a global basis. By providing affordable homes engineered with light-gauge steel studs, IHE is helping satisfy not only the worldwide need for housing, but also creating jobs in the trades necessary to construct the homes. IHE was on the ground within months of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Not only did the IHE team donate several homes, but also the company provided training to the Haitian laborers. According to IHE, men were lined up in the streets, almost around the clock, just to have the opportunity to have a job. Helping people help themselves is as important to IHE as providing the actual homes.

With extended service offerings came great potential, and the company required strong leadership, making Bob Papera, president of Expo, the perfect fit. Papera has been in the construction manufacturing and distribution business for decades, initially joining Expo in 1976 as vice president and general manager, then purchasing the company in 1982. Sensing the growth opportunities overseas with IHE, Papera decided to spin off Expo’s distribution division in 2008 in order to focus on the manufacturing of Expo Stucco products and IHE.

“I purchased the company in 1982,” explains Papera. “During those 37 years we experienced the thrill of explosive growth as well as despair during the downturns.” Papera’s experience has taught him that selective diversity is the key to success in this business. “We expanded our distribution businesses over those years by adding new product lines and opening branches in new markets,” he says. “Despite all the changes during that time, one thing has remained the same: the commitment to excellence by all of our team members. Our bias for action and integrity has never changed.”

Quality Products; Unmatched Service

The Small Business Administration named Papera San Diego Businessman of the Year in 2000, though the company’s rein of knowledge doesn’t end with him. Ben Garcia, vice president of Expo, has been with the business for 32 years. Garcia’s experience has informed the business model, and his expertise has contributed to the development of the company and its affiliates.

“We have good relationships with all aspects of the construction industry,” explains Garcia. “We’re known for our expertise and our well-versed technical staff.”

The team’s leadership and skilled employees have made a name for the company. Expo is headquartered in San Diego, Calif., but the team has worked all over the world, with projects and exports in Mexico, China and Korea. And the team’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. Expo products were chosen for the remodel of the historic Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. The organization’s unique building systems and green capabilities have become highly sought after by commercial customers all over the state. Other customers include San Diego State University, Balboa Hospital and the Mercado, or “Marketplace,” at the foot of the Coronado Bridge.

Expo’s green building division is seeing rapid growth as the sustainable construction trend continues to expand. “In 2007, we recognized the need for more sustainable products in our market,” Papera elaborates. “We introduced GX2 in early 2008 as the first truly green and sustainable stucco alternative. The lightweight and expanded coverage results in fewer sacks, and weighs less for the same job resulting in lower fuel costs and fewer back injuries. GX2 has been the product of choice when it comes to exporting because of the freight savings.”

Filling a Niche

The company’s green product line is taking the forefront in Expo’s growth. “Our focus is to expand upon our green product line and other cutting edge products,” says Papera. “We will be increasing our franchise agreements to expand into new markets.” The IHE branch of the business is also making changes to further expand Expo’s market share. “We will be sharpening our focus with International Home Exports to provide engineered steel-framed homes to meet the worldwide demand for safe and affordable housing,” Papera continues. “IHE has provided homes from Haiti to Nigeria, from Portugal to Tahiti, from Mexico to Hawaii. The need is there.”

It is clear that Expo is currently on the rise, despite facing setbacks throughout the recession. “We went lean,” says Garcia, discussing Expo’s efforts to streamline, yet simultaneously diversify. “We downsized our salesforce. We took a large hit in the track-housing market. We started exporting more, and we’ve done private labeling and packaging. We started to really embrace the green building movement and diversifying has definitely helped us push through the rough patches.” Garcia says the industry is still facing challenges, but his team is ready to meet each one head-on. The obstacles present opportunities for growth, and the company is constantly reworking its product lines to meet changing industry needs.

Expo’s flexibility and knack for adaptation has been the single greatest factor to success. These innovations are made possible by a team that is dedicated to delivering only the best to its customers worldwide. “What sets Expo apart from its competition is our personal commitment to provide only the highest quality products available and to stand behind our performance promises 100 percent,” elaborates Papera. “We have technical representatives who are highly respected in the industry and they are available to provide unique technical assistance.”

In 2012 Expo is celebrating 30 years under Papera’s leadership. In that time, the structure of the business has changed greatly, but always in an effort to better serve customers. The Expo team embraces a culture of quality, delivering on promises and providing products that exceed expectations on a regular basis. Expo Industries Inc. and all its affiliated businesses continue to grow and change, adapting to markets and filling in new niches in the industry.