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Lone Star Chemical is a family-owned and family-built business whose success can be traced to one man’s dream nearly 50 years ago. Mike McAlister was the young, ambitious Fina Oil employee who left his secure and successful role with that oil and gas giant to take the plunge in a new venture that held no guarantees and lots of challenges. His startup, Lone Star Chemical, has grown into everything he hoped for, and more.
Mike is still a part of the organization, but the reins have been passed to Mike’s son Kip McAlister, now the president of the company. Under Kip’s guidance, Lone Star has expanded its horizons yet further and built ever-bigger successes.
But Kip starts his own story by telling of his father. It’s a tale of Texas and its celebrated oil country: “When my dad graduated from Texas Tech University in 1969, he had a job waiting at Cosden Oil Company out in Big Spring, Texas.”
The job was available because Mike’s dad’s best friend, a man named Paul Meek, happened to be president of Cosden Oil Company. Cosden operated a large refinery in Big Spring, and they also operated a plant that manufactured polystyrene. Their polystyrene was sold all over the United States and even around the world. The firm was so big that their marketing was managed in New York City, out of offices at 50 Rockefeller Plaza.
So Mike McAlister and his wife—they were still freshly married—took up new lives in Big Spring, where they lived for the next three years.
Kip continues: “Cosden was purchased by the Fina Oil and Chemical Company. So the Cosden management moved their headquarters to the Dallas area, specifically to Richardson. They moved into what used to be known as the Fina Building—a big gold glass high rise.”
Mike worked at Fina for a while, but soon realized that climbing the executive ladder there would be a long process. Besides, he had always wanted to run his own company. So he left to take a job selling injection molding machines, which are vital to the plastics industry.
Then Fina reached out to McAlister in an attempt to entice him back, offering him a job as national sales manager for the chemicals division he had earlier served.
This was in 1974. The McAlisters had already started a family and Mike was not enthused about the prospect of all the travel that would go with the job of being national sales manager. He hit upon an idea. He tried Fina with a different angle. “What if I became one of your resellers? What if I bought material from you and resold it?” The idea there was for McAlister to form his own company. His Fina contacts agreed, and the corporation itself allowed him to become a reseller. Lone Star Chemical was in business.
Some 20 years passed and by then Kip McAlister was graduated from college. Through those two decades Mike had deliberately kept the business fairly small, and had not allied with any suppliers other than Fina. But as Kip gained experience and was given more control, Kip’s inclination was toward expansion. In 2005, Kip was made president.
“When I took over, my emphasis was on getting multiple suppliers,” Kip says. “I didn’t want to be dependent on just one supplier, and besides, if you add suppliers, you’ve created some competition between them, and I think that always makes it better.”
Today, in the 2020s, Lone Star is a distributor that has realized Kip’s dream of improving its efficiencies and increasing its market share. Today the company handles not just polystyrene but polypropylene and polyethylene, as well as a repro products line and other offerings. Lone Star’s customers are found across the nation and internationally as well. The year 2022 should be a record-setter for the firm as it sets its sights on expanding its markets and on continually improving its customer service.