published Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Chattem strong in weak economy


by Brian Lazenby
Audio clip

Bret Jordan

Despite an economic recession that has taken its toll on many businesses, one Chattanooga company continues to thrive.

Chattem, which manufactures and markets a variety of over-the-counter health care products, toiletries and dietary supplements, reported record revenue in 2008 and an 11 percent jump in profits.

"It was a good year for Chattem despite the general economic downturn," said Bob Bosworth, the company's president. "We are very pleased with the results of '08 and are excited about things in '09."

And 2009 started out strong as well.

The company reported 4 percent less revenue in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same quarter a year ago, but by cutting costs, the company still bolstered profits by 32 percent.

Also, Chattem announced in May a $35.5 million facility will go up adjacent to its Broad Street location in late 2010 to manufacture Act mouthwash. Up to 70 jobs will be added as a result, according to the company.

Chattem

* Headquarters: 1715 W. 38th St.

* Products: Include Gold Bond, Selsun Blue, Aspercreme, Cortizone-10, Act Fluoride Rinse.

* Employees: About 400.

* Future growth: Plans a $7 million expansion and possible additional projects totaling an investment of more than $35 million and about 100 new jobs over the next several years.

Bret Jordan, a senior analyst with Avondale Partners in Boston, said Chattem's product line is fairly recession resistant.

"Chattem is in a category that is generally seen as being very defensive," Mr. Jordan said. "You might not buy your next car, but you still will be rinsing your teeth and using your Gold Bond lotions."

Mr. Jordan said Chattem recently launched a variety of new products. Although not all of the new lines are doing as well as some analysts had predicted, the shift from Gold Bond powders to lotions has been a great success.

"You couldn't make the sweeping statement that all products are growing dramatically, but clearly one of them is doing very well," he said.

Chattem had earlier announced plans for a $7 million expansion involving equipment and machinery, which officials said will add about 33 jobs as well as increase production and efficiency.

Robert Long, Chattem's vice president and chief financial officer, said the expansion was needed despite the current economic climate.

"The business is doing very well, and we are growing," he said. "This is to meet demands. It is an expansion out of necessity."

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