Key Staff

Please take a moment to get to know the people of URC and URI -- and see how our rich diversity and depth of experience in engineering, research & development, computer technology, manufacturing, sales, quality assurance and customer service collectively represents well over a century of hard-won industry expertise and customer satisfaction. We are all UNITED for a single purpose: to deliver the very best refractory products to our customers.

Jump to: United Refractories Co. Key Staff  |  UNI-Ref, Inc. Key Staff

Staff Member

Douglas R. Niesen
Chief Executive Officer

With a strong work ethic, modeled after his father, and his visionary approach to business, Douglas saw a new direction for United Refractories Co. (URC). After earning his B.A. in Communications from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he joined the staff of URC in 1987 as a Sales Account Representative. Building upon his father’s strong foundation, Douglas’ passion for the business put him on the path to leadership. Since becoming president in 1993, he has grown URC into an internationally respected and reliable source for refractory needs.

Douglas consistently works with customers to meet their individual goals with a commitment to quality, technology and service. He is a member of The Refractories Institute and the American Foundrymen's Society.


United Refractories Co. Key Staff

Staff Member

Mark Kness
Vice President, Business Development/Product Applications

Mark has seventeen years of sales experience with URC, a career that began with opening new sales territories in the mid-1990’s. After much success as Sales Director (2003-2012), Mark moved into his current VP position in December 2012.  Mark holds a BS in Marketing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and is a member of the American Ceramic Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and the Portland Cement Association.

Staff Member

Jim Caprio
Vice President, Sales & Marketing

Jim joined URC in the middle of 2012, extending a distinguished career that began with summer refractory jobs in 1969. Previously, Jim served in all manner of technology and marketing positions, including VP of Industrial Markets for Harbison Walker, as a marketing and sales consultant specializing in refractory for Solutions 21, and most recently, as the Director of Steel Sales and Marketing for Vesuvius. Jim holds a B.S. in Marketing/Marketing Research from Penn State, and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Pittsburgh.

Jim is certified to teach the DISC personal profile tool, has authored several technical papers and is the holder of one patent. In addition, Jim serves as a musician/cantor for the Music Ministry, St. Louise Church in Upper St. Clair, PA; and is a volunteer coordinator for Canine Companions for Independence, an organization dedicated to placing qualified service dogs.


Phil Nichols
Chief Financial & Administrative Officer

Phil joined the management team in 2013, after sixteen years of working with entrepreneurs of closely held businesses, helping them to continue to protect their success, grow their success, and turn their success into a lasting legacy. Prior to that Phil had gained fourteen years of broad financial and administrative experience in various positions with the U.S. Treasury Department, Arthur Anderson & Co., and Aristech Chemical Corporation. Phil holds a business degree from Duquesne University, and has augmented his education over the years with specialized courses and coaching programs.

Staff Member

Willard M. Bellows

Willard took the Controller reigns at URC in 2007. His previous experience includes an impressive 39 years with the same refractory-related company. Over the lifespan of that company’s many different names and ownership groups, Willard held positions ranging from CFO and CIO to General Manager and President. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Duquesne University.

Staff Member

Jody Balogh
Financial & Administrative Supervisor

Jody has spent nearly one-third of her professional life here at URC, joining the team in the year 1999 as an administrator/bookkeeper. All tolled, Jody has over 35 years of experience in accounting and business administration that includes refractory experience as well as sales and marketing, fast food, and the petroleum storage industries. She studied Bookeeping and Accounting at both Daytona Beach Community College and the Ohio State University.

Staff Member

Donna Hull
Sr. Customer Service Coordinator

With over two decades of customer service experience — inclusive of her position at URC since 2001 — Donna brings both managerial experience and human resources know-how to the table. Prior to URC, Donna worked in HR and Customer Service for the cement industry, and served as a manager in a retail environment. She studied computer courses at the Community College of Beaver County.

Staff Member

Amy R.
Billing & H.R. Coordinator

Amy started with URC in the summer of 2011. She brought several years experience with her, including work as a bookkeeper and customer service manager for Burlington Coat Factory, as well as account executive experience with Citifinancial. Amy holds a BS in Organizational Leadership from Robert Morris University, and is working toward an MS in Human Resources Management from Capella University. She is a multi-year volunteer for both the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life in Peters Township (PA).

Staff Member

Kimberly Sweder
Purchasing Manager

Kimberly joined URC in 2009 and brought with her a decade of hands-on purchasing experience in refractory. She ascended to the post of Senior Purchasing Agent — even logged a year as a Transportation Specialist — for ANH Refractories prior to joining the URC team. Kimberly holds a BS in Marketing from The Pennsylvania State University and is a member of The Refractories Institute (TRI).

Staff Member

Holly Garancosky
A.P. Coordinator

Holly joined URC in 2006 after amassing over fifteen years of experience as a bookkeeper and staff assistant for such organizations as Universal Suppliers of Selinsgrove, PA and the Penn State University — in both the Outreach and Continuing Education department and for the College of Engineering. She has earned certification from the Penn State Office Professional Certificate Program and studied Business Management courses, also at Penn State.

Staff Member

Donna Abbott
Business Development & Quotes Coordinator

Donna joined URC in early 2012, bringing with her a decade of direct customer service, office management, accounting and billing coordination experience from such companies as Tri Point Healthcare, Michael’s Stores and Fox Television Stations, Inc.

Donna possesses a B.A. in Accounting from Thiel College in Mercer County, PA.


UNI-Ref, Inc. Key Staff

Staff Member

Brian Rhoads
Vice President, Operations-Services

Brian joined UNI-REF, Inc. in 2002 as the Director of Quality Assurance and served faithfully in that capacity before advancing to his current position as Vice President, Operations-Services.  Brian wore a number of hats prior to joining URI, putting in two decades of work as a senior process engineer, manager, and QA director for such companies as BMI Refractories, Didier Taylor Refractories and ANH Refractories. He holds a BS in Ceramic Science & Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University, and is a Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Staff Member

Fred L. Daniels
Vice President, Operations-Manufacturing

An 11-year Air Force veteran, Fred was hired over 20 years ago as plant manager for UNI-REF, Inc. Fred was the originator of URI’s precast manufacturing division and has both expanded and improved manufacturing capabilities and efficiency in over two decades of service to URI.

Staff Member

Richard Volk
Vice President, Research & Development

Richard joined UNI-REF, Inc. in 2002. His career in R&D and engineering spans 36 years in the refractories industry for such companies as Wellsville Firebrick, AP Green, NARCO, and National Refractories & Minerals. Here at URI, Richard served as the Director of Product Development and the Director of Research prior to his current position. He holds a BS in Ceramic Science from Pennsylvania State University and an MS in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri – Rolla. Richard is a certified ISO 9001 Auditor, plus a member of the American Ceramic Society and American Foundrymen’s Society.