Penda Corp. plans to cross the Pacific Ocean this year, opening a manufacturing plant in Mel-bourne, Australia. It has been nearly two years since the Portage, Wis., proprietary manufacturer of truck-bed liners split into two separate companies, and its success since then has been evident in its growth.
The Australia plant is scheduled to open in the second quarter, said Scot Harvey, vice president of operations.
``That market has been good for us. We've been exporting product to Australia, and as business there grew, we saw the opportunity to reduce our shipping expenses and open a facility in that country,'' Harvey said.
The proprietary operations of Penda were purchased by new owners in March 1994 after the original owners took the custom thermoforming business and created TriEnda Corp. Under the new ownership, Penda has increased its markets and market share in the automotive industry.
``We started expanding immediately after the split,'' Harvey said, adding that growth has taken place on two fronts.
In June, Penda purchased Tri-Glas, a manufacturer of fiberglass caps for pickup trucks in Dale-ville, Ala. The acquisition gave Penda its entrance into a new, growth market in the auto industry. Tri-Glas now operates as a subsidiary of Penda and has 280 employees in Alabama.
In the second quarter of last year, Penda opened a manufacturing plant in Toluca, Mexico, to serve auto markets in Mexico, Central and South America. Har-vey said that, despite Mexico's economic woes, business at the Toluca facility has been strong and the company expects continued growth.
On the home front, Penda recently added two 6-inch HPM extruders with 41/2-inch coextruders to make high density polyethylene sheet the company uses to produce truck-bed liners. The firm now operates four extrusion lines.
Two years ago, the Portage facility employed about 240. That figure has grown to 320. The Portage plant produces bed liners for the major automotive manufacturers and a line of aftermarket bed liners.
``It's been two years since our split from the old Penda into the new corporation, and we've experienced tremendous growth as we increase our penetration into the bed liner business, and we're quite excited about our growth in new markets,'' said Harvey. ``We see this trend continuing over the next three to five years.''
Penda Corp. ranked 12th in PN's 1996 thermoformers survey with sales of $66 million.