Dave Kitts, Mannington’s vp environment, shows beehives on the company’s campus as part of an environmental tour held for the first time this year.

Mannington Commercial invited nearly 60 regional architects, designers and end-users to its Salem, N.J., headquarters last week to showcase products that were originally unveiled at NeoCon in June. Mannington also used the 2nd annual event to underscore its environmental initiatives, which included new tours to view its VCT recycling plant as well as migratory bird colonies and even beehives that are tended on campus.

Karen Halo of Absolute Green and Mannington’s Natalie Jones hold up Mannington VCT tile, which includes a minimum 25 percent recycled content.

Dave Kitts, Mannington’s vp environment, led the tours with evident pride, at one point showing groups of manmade nests set high atop a series of poles for purple martins, which Kitts said are beneficial partly because the birds are “voracious bug eaters.” He also noted that one of the staffers is a beekeeper, so Mannington has begun keeping hives on campus. “The idea is to help out the bee population” while also letting him practice his hobby, Kitts said.

Kitts noted these efforts point to Mannington’s holistic view on environmental affairs, treating the campus as part of the wetlands and meadows surrounding it. He also discussed the company’s environmental initiatives tied directly to flooring, such as offering a minimum 25 percent recycled content in its resilient lines.

Bethany Isabell and Jillian Eisenhart of Del Ciotto Architects look over design boards during the Mannington Commercial open house.

“Our VCT recycling has gone from a 2 percent level to a 25 percent level. We’ll be recycling 10 to 20 million pounds this year, and hope to double that next year,” Kitts said. “It represents our biggest capital investment in ’09. We feel in a down economy, it’s a good statement to make.”

The day-long open house also included plant tours and continuing education classes from Ultron and Antron fiber representatives. Richard Ottens, head of interior design/property management for Juniper Communities in Bloomville, N.J., said he came to the event “to network and to learn more.”

“I’ve never done a plant tour before, and I’m interested to find out what a factory [line] looks like,” he said, adding that while he was at the open house, he would be looking for products that offer “performance and stain resistance.”

Both Jillian Eisenhart and Bethany Isabell, interior designers for Del Ciotto Architects in North Wales, Pa., said the event was “pretty informative.” After one of the fiber presentations, both women could be seen poring over design boards featuring swatches of color from across the country. “We wanted to look into the color forecasts, take the environmental tour, and basically just check [the campus] out,” Eisenhart added.

Keith Campbell, Mannington’s Chairman of the Board, speaks to the architects, designers and end-users on hand before the close of the event.

Natalie Jones, Mannington vp commercial brand development & creative product, gave visitors a walkthrough of Mannington Commercial’s latest products, including ColorPoint and SolidPoint VCT, which boast 25 percent post-consumer recycled content. Additionally, she showed off a range of modular carpet and rubber products, called Elemental Spectrum and Audio Spectrum, which take their linear and abstract patterns from readouts of spectrographs and audio recording equipment.

Jones said the event was the first time many customers got to see Mannington Commercial’s latest products. “So many people in the area didn’t make it to Chicago for NeoCon this year, so we thought we’d bring the show to them,” she said.

Reese Moore, director of commercial business – VCT and LVT, agreed, adding, “We’re trying to leverage the awareness of the products we offer to architects and designers in the area, and also let them know we’re here as a resource.”

Karen Halo, LEED AP and president of green consulting firm Absolute Green in Metuchen, N.J., said she was thrilled with the new products, especially the higher recycled content VCT lines. “I originally wanted to use Mannington premium tile but was put off by the low recycled content – 10 percent is the bare minimum for me. So when I learned the products now use up to 25 percent recycled content, it rocked my world,” she commented.

The exhibit also featured Mannington’s newest hardwood and ceramic products, which included a range of glass and wrapped metal mosaics, as well as enhancements to the commercial hardwood line.

Jack Ganley, Mannington Commercial president, said the event was important both for showcasing products and the green side of the business. “Environmental issues are no longer a trend,” he noted. “They’re just a part of doing business now.”

He added the company is considering turning the open house into a twice yearly event, held in the spring and fall. “We can draw nicely for a one-day event as far north as Boston and as far south as Richmond,” Ganley explained.

At the end of the day, Zach Zehner, vp commercial hard surfaces, spoke to the assembled visitors with pride about Mannington’s heritage. “We’re glad you had a chance to come to a real live American manufacturer in the Delaware Valley,” he said.

Keith Campbell, Mannington’s Chairman of the Board, capped off the day with a brief history of Mannington and the importance of getting prepared for when the economy recovers. “The economic scene is tough but I guarantee one thing: the economy is going to come back,” Campbell said. “We want you to be prepared with the latest cutting-edge products in the marketplace.”