As incoming chairman of the board of ACMA, Jay Merrell is poised to lead the association into the future.

During college, Jay Merrell spent his summers working as a mechanic in the maintenance department of IDI in Noblesville, Ind. “I moved equipment, repaired compounding mixing machines, did electrical work and handled welding and machining tasks,” recalls Merrell. “The factory was hot and noisy, and my hands were dirty every day!” But that didn’t deter Merrell from ultimately joining IDI, a business founded by his father, John Merrell, in 1966.

Today, Merrell is vice president of Norplex-Micarta and IDI and incoming chairman of the board of ACMA. Norplex-Micarta manufactures high-performance thermoset composite materials. IDI is a custom formulator and manufacturer of thermoset molding compounds for molders and OEMs. Its bulk molding compounds, sheet molding compounds and new Structural Thermoset Compounds™ are used in a variety of markets, including military, aerospace, transportation, alternative energy and marine.

Merrell is excited about future opportunities for ACMA and the industry as a whole. “I believe the composites industry is going to grow faster than the rest of the economy,” he says. “Will it grow in double digits? Probably not. But it will probably grow a few percentage points faster than the national economy. Composites have a great deal to offer.”

A Nose for Business
Merrell is a native of the Hoosier State. “I was born, raised and will probably die in Noblesville, just north of Indianapolis,” he says. He grew up in the family business, which entered the composites market in the mid 1970s. After earning a degree in management from Purdue University in 1982, Merrell joined IDI full time. Since then, he has worked in nearly every department, from customer service to technical sales and material development.

Working in a family business is a mixed blessing. “The challenge is that you have to work with family; the advantage is that you get to work with your family,” says Merrell, who oversees corporate management alongside his brother, Tom, president of Norplex-Micarta and IDI. “You have an over-arching desire to make good decisions because you are affecting your parents, siblings and kids.”

John Merrell retired a decade ago, but his influence continues. “Learning business practices and philosophies from my dad is the highlight of my career,” says Merrell. “I had a good 20 years working for him and with him.” Perhaps the most valuable lesson John taught his son is the importance of customer service. “The customer comes first,” says Merrell. “It’s something that all of our locations and people follow, and it flows out of our family management practice.”