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Thermoformer Triangle Plastics Inc. has strengthened its presence in the South with the purchase of Solar Plastics Inc. of Tampa, Fla.

With $60 million in sales, Triangle, based in Independence, Iowa, is one of North America's largest industrial thermoformers of heavy-gauge products. Solar, much smaller with about $6 million-plus in sales, is Triangle's second acquisition in Florida in the past 11/2 years. In 1995, Triangle bought Progress Plastics Inc., an industrial thermoformer with a 90,000-square-foot plant in Auburndale.

Triangle will relocate Solar's assets to Auburndale during the next year. According to a Triangle news release, Solar is in the path of an expanding Tampa International Airport and would have had to move its operation eventually.

Triangle and Solar owner Allen Thomas closed the deal Dec. 23. Terms were undisclosed. Neither Thomas nor Triangle's owner and chairman, James L. Blin, were available for comment.

Solar operates about six thermoforming machines at its Tampa plant, where it does vacuum, pressure and twin-sheet forming. Solar and Triangle have several end markets in common, including recreational, plumbing, marine and industrial products. Triangle also serves the agricultural, signage and transportation industries.

J. Richard Jackson, Solar's general manager, will take that post at the Auburndale facility once the move is final. Triangle, which employs about 560, did not say in the release whether it will keep the rest of Solar's work force—which

in 1995 numbered about 80.

Blin founded Triangle in 1965 in Winthrop, Iowa, now its oldest site. A list of the firm's plants is also a record of growth. In all, it has three facilities in Iowa, including one in Independence and another in Oelwein — which it bought in 1993 from Amoco Foam Products.

It also has plants in Cookeville, Tenn., and Portage, Wis. It picked up the latter in 1994, as part of TriEnda Corp.'s single-sheet forming business.

From 1994-95, the firm's sales rose from $40 million to $60 million, its number of thermoforming lines, which include rotary and twin-sheet machines, from 18 to 30.

Triangle placed third among North American industrial thermoformers in Plastics News' 1996 sales-based ranking.