For the fourth consecutive year, Myers Industries Inc. has won a proxy contest for its board of directors.

Again, the contest was against GAMCO Asset Management Inc., the largest shareholder of the Akron tool distributor and maker of plastic products, with 10.78 percent of shares.

GAMCO — run by well-known investor Mario Gabelli — failed to gain a seat on the company’s nine-member board at Myers Industries’ annual meeting Friday in Akron.

GAMCO ran two candidates, as it did unsuccessfully last year.

In earlier years, GAMCO offered larger slates of candidates.

George Maldonado, director of proxy services for GAMCO, spoke at Friday’s annual meeting, noting it was his fourth consecutive appearance there.

Maldonado boasted that GAMCO is having an effect on company decisions: “GAMCO is delighted that our presence has forced the company to buy back stock and increase the dividend.”

Maldonado told shareholders, “I’m sure I’ll see you all again next year and I thank you for the time.”

John C. Orr, Myers Industries’ president and chief executive, said after the meeting that the company “is certainly happy that GAMCO is a major shareholder.

But Orr gave credit to Myers’ directors for the stock repurchase: “It was really a strategy that the board put together, and the timing was right to do that. ”

He said the company has raised dividends every year. Orr was among the directors re-elected to the board.

Orr said Myers Industries is “very pleased that we had a terrific year (in 2011) and we look forward to having a good year in 2012.”

He noted the bevy of new products the company introduced last year. They include everything from new styles of large reusable plastic bins, made by Myers’ Materials Handling segment, to plastic seed-growing kits manufactured by the company’s Lawn & Garden segment.

During the meeting, Orr noted that Myers Industries earlier this month reported a strong first quarter.

Net income jumped 48 percent to $9.98 million, or 29 cents a share, on sales of $198.8 million for the quarter ended March 31.

That compares with $6.72 million, or 19 cents a share, for the first quarter of 2011.

Adjusting for one-time special items, Myers Industries said it earned 30 cents per share in the first quarter of this year. That compares with 20 cents in the first quarter of 2011.

Orr said during the meeting that Myers in 2012 planned to increase sales coming from new products to 5 percent of total sales. He said the company also would increase capital expenditures, dedicate resources to seek acquisitions with “solid returns” and continue to focus on employee training.

Myers stock rose 18 cents to $16.89 in trading Friday. Shares are up 37.7 percent including dividends since Jan. 1, and are up 58.8 percent from a year ago.

In February, the company said its long-term plan to improve finances and operations is working. For fiscal 2011, Myers Industries had net income of $24.5 million, or 71 cents a share, on revenue of $755.7 million.

For fiscal 2010, Myers lost $42.8 million, or $1.21 a share, on sales of $737.6 million.

Earlier this month, the company said in a news release that two leading proxy advisory firms had recommended shareholders vote for the company’s nominees to the board.

GAMCO “has offered no plans to improve upon the company’s ongoing strategy for value,” Orr said.

Locally, the company owns the 100-plus employee Akro-Mils plant in Wadsworth, where workers make plastic and steel storage products for industrial, commercial and consumer use.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com