FLORENCE, MASS. — Government officials are confident Massachusetts can help find a buyer for Summit Plastic Solutions Inc. — and keep the doors open at computer-parts molders Pro Corp. and Apogee Plastic Technologies Inc.
Meanwhile, the debt-plagued company last week filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Summit also suspended employees' health coverage, then agreed to pay a stipend for workers to buy their own coverage.
More than 10 government leaders met with management July 17 at Pro's factory in Florence, where 200 jobs are in jeopardy. The company employs another 150 at Apogee Plastic in Daytona Beach, Fla.
``I've got the federal, state and local governments [represented] here today and together, we will make something happen. I'm very optimistic,'' said state House Majority Leader William P. Nagle Jr., a Democrat from Northampton, Mass. Florence is near Northampton.
The closed-door meeting lasted about an hour.
Summit's financial problems became public when majority owner Mesirow Private Equity Investments Inc. brought in an interim management team July 7. Mesirow removed Terry Minnick as chairman and chief executive officer.
The interim team's charge: either sell the company within 60 days or liquidate the injection molding firm.
After the July 17 meeting at Pro, government leaders were optimistic Summit can be saved. Nagle said about 25 potential buyers have expressed interest in Summit Plastic Solutions.
``It's a safe assumption to say, the company will remain open,'' Nagle said.
Pro, the old Pro Brush, was founded in the 1840s.
The interim management team has laid off the company's sales force. Employees — some of them third- and fourth-generation Pro workers — are using up plastic resin and other inventory, as the clock ticks toward the 60-day liquidation deadline.
``We think we'll find a buyer,'' said Bruce Stebbins, deputy director of the Massachusetts Department of Economic Development. The state can target incentives to specific needs of a buyer, he said.
After the July 17 meeting, State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, told reporters that potential buyers ``are going to be walking through here in the next few hours.''
Top officials of Chicago-based Mesirow also attended the meeting. Mesirow owns 70 percent of the company. Minnick still owns 10 percent.
Minnick publicly has opposed liquidating the company. He said he ``started the ball rolling'' by contacting Nagle on July 7 and meeting with Rosenberg's staff.
On July 15, Summit Plastic Solutions filed the two-page voluntary petition seeking Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Boston.
The petition estimated assets exceeding $10 million and liabilities exceeding $10 million. One source estimated that Summit's total debt more nearly approaches $17 million, and said assets are about $12 million. The asset number does not include goodwill and the skills and longevity of the company's work force.
Summit has more than 200 creditors. Major creditors listed include: the New York branch of LaSalle Business Credit, based in Chicago; Heller Financial, headquartered in Florida; equipment financing firm CIT Group; resin supplier GE Plastics; and Enthone Omi of New Haven, Conn., a plating chemical supplier.
The bankruptcy filing estimates that after any exempt property is excluded and administrative expenses paid, there would be no funds available to pay unsecured creditors.
Meanwhile, Summit employees face uncertainty about their health and dental coverage. On Friday, July 11, one Summit worker was informed by the provider, Unicare Life & Health Insurance Co., that no more funds would be made available to pay claims. By the following Monday morning, word had spread like wildfire throughout the plant. A memo issued by the interim chief financial officer, Steve Victor, on July 14, said that, for the next 30-60 days, employees will receive a stipend to buy coverage, of $500 a month for families or $350 for individuals.
Minnick bought Pro in 1989, then brought in Mesirow and other investors in 1994, creating Summit Plastic. The company bought Apogee in Daytona Beach in early 1995.
Also attending the meeting were representatives of U.S. Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy.
Plastics News correspondent Dorrie Alderman Blakney and staff reporter Bill Bregar contributed to this story.