After eight years as part of a publicly traded company, Hobson Bros. Aluminum Foundry and Mould Works Inc. soon will be independent again. Employees of the Shell Rock, Iowa, firm will pay about $6.1 million to buy it back from Essef Corp. of Chardon, Ohio.
Hobson Bros. makes blow molds and does blow molding tryout work, mostly for the industrial parts manufacturers. Key markets include toys, automotive, agricultural and consumer products.
Essef had announced a year ago that it intended to sell Hobson Bros. because it no longer was a ``key strategic component'' of Essef's business. Hobson Bros. reported sales of about $7 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
Gerald Hobson, president of Hobson Bros., said the company's relationship with Essef had allowed Hobson Bros. to grow by 100 percent in eight years.
One of Hobson Bros.' goals is to reach sales of $20 million by the year 2000.
``Now we have 100 people who have that same goal,'' he added.
The buyout plan calls for all 100 employees of Hobson Bros. to own stock in the firm, not just management. Workers can acquire as many shares as they want, he said. The deal is to be complete by Dec. 31.
Under Essef, Hobson Bros. has invested extensively in technology. Since February 1995, when the foundry and blow molding operations were destroyed in a fire, the firm has purchased a ``laser object manufacturing'' machine to speed up the model-making process, and a Japanese-built Placo 2-axis blow molding machine.
Hobson hopes to accelerate the company's research and development, and continue patenting tooling such as its quick-change head tooling, and systems like its in-mold deflashing system. The company expects to receive a patent shortly on its newest system, an in-mold guillotine.
Essef designs and makes parts to move, store and treat water. A subsidiary, Pac-Fab, is the world's largest supplier of swimming pool water treatment equipment, including filters, pumps, heaters, controls and lights.