National Marker Earplug Dispenser

THE STORY: When Michael Black purchased National Marker Co. in 2012, it was not a startup. Founded in 1934, NMC manufactures more than 15,000 safety products. But under Black’s leadership, it has grown dramatically, in no small part because it offers a commercial sign laminate product that protects signs from fading and cracking, and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

› National Marker employs 90 people at its North Smithfield headquarters

› It takes 12 minutes to make this acrylic product, which is laser cut, bent for form and then assembled

› The product is used for storage of and access to hearing protection devices

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› The earplug dispenser has been made for roughly 15 years and sells for $92.60 per unit

› More than 500 dispensers are made a year with the goal of making access to hearing protection simpler. Workers that use them can be found in railroad yards, manufacturing facilities, airline ground crews and the military