For Valley Chrome’s Ray Lucas, he will forever be the president of the now-defunct National Association of Metal Finishers.
“I was their last president before the merger of the three trade groups, so in my mind, I’ll always have that title,” Lucas says with a laugh. “Bob Burger from KC Jones Plating will argue he is the reigning president, but I know that I am.”
It was Lucas and almost two dozen other metal finishing leaders who helped unit five distinct association groups to form what is now the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF), the leading trade association for the electroplating and surface finishing industry.
Vocal Advocate for Metal Finishers
It was a wild time in the unification meetings in the early 2000s, and Lucas was a vocal advocate for the metal finishers who were joining with the industry suppliers and other trade groups to form the NASF.
“That first year was very antagonistic, but we managed to work through it,” he says. “And I firmly believe that they didn’t vote for me to become the first NASF president because I was the smartest; there were many smarter people on the board. I was just stubborn, and I could say no.”
He really enjoyed his time with the association and made many new friends. He pointed out that it was a two-way street and he got as much out of it as he put in by seeing new equipment and processes as well as tapping the tremendous amount of knowledge that his peers had amassed.
Once the NASF was unified, Lucas went back to his family-owned company in Clovis, California, to work on a more important necessity: helping his family expand our brand and develop many new products.
Founded in 1961 by Ray’s father, Anthony, Valley Chrome was plating more than 2 million trailer hitch balls each month in the 1990s, lots of furniture, as well as the car and truck bumpers from various suppliers. But the lead times for the truck parts were causing issues, and they were losing money on the car bumper business because of the labor that was spent on straightening bumpers before they were re-plated.
Turning to Manufacturing
In the 1990s, Valley Chrome found itself in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and moving toward insolvency. The decision to make a huge shift in doing business—or the lack thereof—was especially painful because it wasn’t the typical plating business model, and first and foremost, it was a family business.
“We made a choice to get out of the car bumper business, and we let go of some of our production accounts just so we could focus on the truck bumpers,” Lucas says.
That led Valley Chrome to pivot to become more of a manufacturer than just an electroplater. In 2006, they acquired Wingmaster, a respected company that built high-quality stainless steel turbo wings for pickups and trucks. Valley Chrome has now developed an extensive line of stainless steel truck accessories, including visors, cab and sleeper panels, window trim, light panels, toolboxes fairings, and more.
It’s enough to fill a 250-plus page catalog that consumers can buy products made and manufactured at Valley Chrome’s Clovis, CA headquarters.
“It was a hard decision to make, but the next month we were in the black, and we’ve never looked back,” Lucas says. “Our production keeps going up. We have well over 200 employees now and a good market share. Business is good.”