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Temple, Texas — Panel Specialists Inc., located in this Texas city, is proudly celebrating its 25th year of composite panel and furniture manufacturing.
PSI, now one of the nation’s leading producers of interior wall panel systems, had a less than auspicious beginning. In 1990, Raymond Schiller, Hal Martin, and Paul Karnowski were seated in lawn chairs around a metal desk inside a 6,000-square-foot building with one, French-style telephone between them.
Schiller and Martin, along with private financier Jim Wallis, had just purchased the laminated panel business serviced by the Specialty Products Division of the Ralph Wilson Plastics Company (now Wilsonart LLC) in Temple. The laminated panels were the basis for two product lines that still are a part of PSI’s offering today, a Wall Panel System for institutional and commercial interiors and a Marine Wall System for ocean-going vessels and offshore oil rigs.
Karnowski, PSI’s first employee, was soon joined by Jeff Dean and the two made up PSI’s manufacturing team. “We made boards one day, cut them by hand the next, machined them, and finally packed and shipped them out,” he said. “That’s where the PSI story begins.
Today, both Karnowski and Dean are key managers in the company and the manufacturing team has grown to over 160 employees. The hand fabrication tools they originally used have been replaced with state-of-the-art, large-scale production and handling equipment, and the original 6,000-square-foot building has expanded to five buildings covering more than 340,000 square feet.
During the succeeding years new products were developed and new markets explored. One of the great successes was a partnership begun in 1997 with another Temple-based company, Southwest Contract, to produce residence hall furniture. Today PSI manufactures and ships high-quality furniture to college and university campuses across the nation, creating environments within student housing that offer students flexibility, versatility, space savings, and safety in a home-like atmosphere.
In 2007 PSI recognized the opportunity to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding healthcare facilities market in Texas.
“We capitalized on our experience in manufacturing educational casework and furniture, and added seasoned manufacturing and engineering talent to address these needs,” said Gary Kosel, PSI’s executive vice president.
“To date we have supplied custom medical casework and patient headwalls to a number of prestigious hospitals and medical facilities in the Southwest. We have just recently finished supplying casework to the largest publicly funded hospital construction project in the U.S., the soon-to-open $1.6 billion dollar Parkland Hospital expansion in Dallas.”
PSI saw a significant change in 2009 when the founders sold the company to Markel Ventures, a subsidiary of the Markel Corp. Markel Ventures invests in market-leading companies led by honest and talented managers. As part of its investment philosophy, Markel provides its companies with permanent capital and the resources necessary to support future growth opportunities.
For more information, visit www.panelspec.com.