HOLLAND, MICH. — Clarion Technologies Inc. has purchased a Michigan molder, Drake Products Corp. — the fifth acquisition in less than a year for the fast-growing injection molding company. Drake Products of Greenville, Mich., near Grand Rapids, brings Clarion about $50 million in annual sales and an important move into appliances, according to Clarion officials.
The appliance market — mainly parts such as crisper drawers and trays for Frigidaire refrigerators — accounts for about two-thirds of sales at Drake, the companies said.
"It's a very good diversification into the appliance industry," Clarion President Bill Beckman said in a telephone interview.
Other Drake markets include automotive, furniture and consumer goods.
Clarion intends to continue running all three Drake factories, two in Greenville and one in Anderson, S.C. About 325 people work at the three plants, which have a combined size of 330,000 square feet and include 65 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 90-3,000 tons.
Drake also performs a small amount of vacuum forming, according to Drake President Jeffrey Anonick.
Clarion now runs 150 injection presses at six factories in Michigan, Ohio and South Carolina.
The companies announced the deal March 1. Terms were not disclosed immediately.
Executives of Clarion Technologies came out of powerhouse automotive plastics companies — including Prince Corp., now part of Johnson Controls Inc., and the former Bryan Custom Plastics in Bryan, Ohio.
But at Clarion, they are determined to be more diversified, spreading business among four markets: automotive, trucks, furniture and consumer goods, such as appliances.
Clarion is looking to buy more companies, Beckman said. After buying Drake Products, the company has sales of about $110 million. Clarion wants to get to the $500 million mark by 2003, Beckman said in a January interview at company headquarters in Holland.
"There's no question that customers want what we have, and our internal growth is going to be substantial, along with the acquisitions," Beckman said.
One key selling point is a 60-employee technology center in Jenison, Mich. When potential customers say they want a molder that can handle up-front product design, engineering or prototyping, Clarion officials take them to Jension.
But the technology center also helped seal the deal with Drake Products, according to Anonick. Five years ago, Drake tried to start up its own design house in Grand Rapids, but failed.
"We were trying to do it from the ground up. What it became was a big bunch of overhead," Anonick said.
"We decided from a Tier 2 perspective, there weren't enough dollars to have a tech center of that level and have it self-funding, so we focused on having world-class manufacturing," Anonick said. Drake closed the shop and bought design services from outside firms.
Clarion's approach in Jenison was different, as it bought an existing, 10-year-old business, MITO Plastics Inc. last year.
Clarion, which is publicly traded, paid a combination of cash, notes and Clarion stock to the Drake co-owners, Anonick and Michael Miller, executive vice president.
Anonick, 39, and Miller, 34, are the sons-in-law of Stephen Drake Sr., who founded the company in 1970. He died in 1998.
Now Anonick and Miller have joined Clarion's management team.
"We view this opportunity as a chance to take our company to a bigger level faster than we could as a private entity," Miller said.
Since April 1999, Clarion has acquired the Jenison design house, an injection molding plant and a mold shop in Caledonia, Mich., and a molder in South Haven, Mich. Also last year, Clarion began molding at a large factory it built in Montpelier, Ohio.
For Clarion, the purchase of Drake Products capped a busy week.
The next day, Clarion stock began trading on the Nasdaq SmallCap Market, after graduating from over-the-counter status.
Beckman said the move up means Clarion shares will become more widely traded, giving the company greater access to money for future acquisitions and expansion.