By year's end Minnesota-based Thermoform Plastics Inc. will have 95 new employees and two more plants, including a stronghold in the Southeast. After a yearlong search for just the right candidate, TPI has signed a letter of intent to acquire the Plastivax custom thermoforming division of Crossville Rubber Inc., TPI President Curt Zamec said from his firm's St. Paul headquarters Nov. 7.
The companies, currently in due diligence, are keeping the terms confidential.
Plastivax, with $9.4 million in annual sales, will boost TPI's industrial thermoforming sales to nearly $50 million for 1995. The buy will move it into the 12th spot of the largest North American thermoformers, according to Plastics News sales data.
Like its parent, Plastivax's biggest market is automotive, mainly interior parts, said Gene Farr, president and chief executive officer at Crossville. That synergy is the reason Crossville bought the division in 1991. Later the company decided the plastics business detracted from its mainstay, rubber molding, by cutting into management, time and resources, he said. But Crossville did not want to leave its plastics customers in just anybody's hands.
TPI is as much Plastivax's pick as vice versa, and both Zamec and Farr think the deal makes a good match - though neither executive would comment on how the companies came together.
``It certainly fits what Thermoform was looking for,'' Farr said.
For the most part, TPI was looking for new geography,which it is gaining with a 44,000-square-foot Plastivax plant with six vacuum formers and one computer numerically controlled trimmer in Gastonia, N.C., Zamec said. Another plant, in Warren, Ohio, has 66,000 square feet, nine formers and four computer numerically controlled trimmers. Half of those 15 formers are rotary, half shuttle machines, he said. He expects TPI to take control of those facilities by Dec. 31.
The companies share some of the same end markets: automotive, health care and materials handling. Both do heavy-gauge forming mainly of ABS, polystyrene and polyethylene. Zamec said the Gastonia plant will serve Plastivax as well as TPI's Southeast customers - whose jobs the company had been running at its White Bear Township plant, near St. Paul.
``A lot of our customers are putting in satellite plants in the Southeast,'' he said, ``so that's a logical step to follow them.''
When it comes to expansion, TPI is not shy. By February, it will have completed a $3 million building project to give it 300,000 square feet at its White Bear plant, partly to accommodate a new $1 million Brown twin-sheet rotary machine. A second plant, in Little Hocking, Ohio, close to the West Virginia border, recently added custom work to the proprietary burial products it makes for TPI parent Wilbert Inc. of Chicago.
``We plan to grow our business every year by taking care of our customers,'' said Zamec, who took TPI's reins in June. ``It's as simple as that.''
Farr, also new to his head post, was appointed in May by Crossville owners Watermill Ventures of Waltham, Mass. Crossville's rubber products include molded floor coverings for carmakers and truck bedliners.