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Canadian auto molder moving to a larger plant

By: Michael Lauzon

January 16, 2014

A Canadian automotive parts injection molder will open a new plant to accommodate growth.

Sle-Co Plastics Inc. bought a facility in St. Thomas, Ontario, for C$2 million (US$1.8 million) and will spend about as much on renovations. The facility was owned by compounder A. Schulman Inc. until Schulman closed it in 2008.

Sle-Co President Jeff Sleegers said his company will soon occupy it for warehousing and assembly but converting the facility's compounding extrusion layout to injection molding will take about a year.

"We're out of space and have new business booked," Sleegers said in a telephone interview from Sle-Co's headquarters in London, Ontario. The St. Thomas facility has 155,000 square feet of space and silos, high ceilings and other infrastructure beneficial to an injection molding plant.

Sle-Co's main molding operation is in London, where it runs about half of its 50 injection presses. A second London facility is primarily a warehouse and assembly operation. In nearby Strathroy, Ontario, Sle-Co produces magnesium vehicle parts. In total, Sle-Co employs about 100. As part of its molding services it also does design and tool building.

Sle-Co plans to keep its current operations running when the St. Thomas expansion is done. Eventually the firm expects to employ about 200 in St. Thomas.

Child safety vehicle seats are one of Sle-Co's growth areas, Sleegers explained. The company molds and assembles the seats for Clek Inc. of Toronto, the seats' designer and marketer. Most of Sle-Co's business is molding and assembly for Tier 1 and 2 vehicle firms in Canada and the United States, but the custom molder also takes on electronics molding and other jobs.

Sleegers said Sle-Co probably will buy more equipment when the St. Thomas renovation is done. It now has an injection press range of up to 1,000 tons but hopes to buy a 3,000 ton press for large-part jobs it currently outsources.

Sle-Co wanted to expand its headquarters plant in London but it could not find a viable way to boost its electrical power access or its water supply for fire protection required in a larger plant. Although Sle-Co had municipal assurances its greater needs could be met, Sle-Co's share of capital costs for the extra infrastructure were too high.

St. Thomas officials in a news release welcomed Sle-Co's plans because the area has been hit hard by plant closures.

Jeff Sleegers and his father Anthony founded Sle-Co in 1988. Sleegers said his company's annual sales are now about C$18 million ($16.5 million), including magnesium parts work.