The 150-year-old name of Pro Corp. is changing after a minor consolidation at the landmark New England custom injection molder. A holding company backed by Mesirow Private Equity Investments Inc. bought the Florence, Mass.-based Pro Corp. in December 1994. Mesirow set up Pro Management Inc., which a few months later bought Apogee Plastic Technologies Inc. of Daytona Beach, Fla.
Both companies, with expected 1996 combined sales of more than $40 million, had been operated independently. Now they have consolidated management at a firm called Summit Plastic Solutions Inc. Summit will be based at Daytona Beach, although Terry Minnick will remain in Florence.
Minnick, who is board chair-man of Summit Plastic Solutions, said a small number of executives, ``less than half a dozen,'' were let go over the past six months. The company is beefing up its technical staff, he said.
The company dates to the 1840s, when Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Co. was founded by Alfred P. Critchlow, a die sinker and horn artisan from England. He came to Massachusetts, first to Haydenville in 1843 where he made horn buttons, according to the book, Plastics History-U.S.A. by J. Harry DuBois.
He moved to Florence in 1845. Early materials were shellac and gutta-percha, formed into products such as combs, mirrors, jewelry, soap boxes and novelties. Plastics quickly replaced animal horn.
Pro literature says that in 1964, the firm was the first custom molder to concentrate on the business equipment market.
Minnick said the Pro name no longer will be official, but its use will continue.
``We're going to kind of encourage people to think of us as the Pro Division.''
Today, the Massachusetts facility molds parts for major computer and communications products customers. In Daytona Beach, the company has high-tech plating technology.
Summit Plastic's president and chief executive, William Esther, said the firm wants to buy more custom molders. Minnick assumes responsibility for new technology, acquisitions, marketing, public relations and new proprietary products.
Plastics historian John J. Keville sold cellulose nitrate rod to Pro while working at Celluloid Corp. in the mid-1930s.
``I used to sell them a lot of celluloid,'' used for toothbrush handles, he said.
Antique toothbrushes manufactured by Pro and other companies go on display Jan. 10 in Leominster, Mass., at the National Plastics Center and Museum. Pro Corp. donated toothbrushes to the exhibit, which runs through March.