A second investor group has surfaced that could end up buying HPM Corp., the beleaguered machinery maker in Mount Gilead, Ohio, according to William Flickinger, president and chief operating officer
Flickinger would not identify the second group.
While the ownership issue remains up in the air, HPM is continuing to produce injection presses, extrusion systems and die-casting machinery — despite laying off half its factory workers, or 84 people, on April 27. HPM also laid off 33 salaried employees that day.
The emergence of a second potential purchaser places Flickinger in a dual role. Flickinger is putting together a group that is trying to buy the company from investors including Los Angeles businessman Parviz Nazarian. But Flickinger also owns 10 percent of the company, so he is interested in the other group from a seller's perspective.
Contacted April 30, Flickinger said his group is "still waiting for senior lending to firm up."
He added, "There's also the possibility of a second equity firm wanting to come in. They would probably, separately from my group, make an offer to buy the business."
Flickinger said he does not consider the new group competition.
"If this private equity group would make strong financials, I might even be in favor of them coming in to buy the company," he said. "I want to do whatever is best for the company."
Meanwhile, government officials are trying to dig out details about the struggling company. HPM, the largest employer in tiny Mount Gilead, has not been returning telephone calls, local government leaders said.
Officials from Morrow County and Mount Gilead met April 30, the Monday after the big Friday layoffs. Kevin Carney, Morrow County economic development director, said when he heard of the job losses, he was "surprised and disappointed."
County Commissioner Olen Jackson said, "We're not a very big player in this thing, as far as we can't dictate to HPM as to how they should conduct their business."
Jackson said the main issue for county commissioners right now is helping the laid-off workers get unemployment compensation — and additional help if their jobs disappear forever. In an April 27 letter to government officials, Flickinger used the phrase "temporary loss of employment" for workers most recently laid off. Some have worked for HPM for decades.
"We really don't have a lot of control of what happens out there, but we are responsible for all those people who are laid off. We've got to make sure they're taken care of," Jackson said.
HPM's struggles also have gained attention from the office of Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. Dave Williamson, Taft's regional representative in Mansfield, Ohio, said the state has offered to help HPM get new financing.
Meanwhile, some good economic news has arrived to lift some gloom from the Mount Gilead area. The Columbus Dispatch reported May 2 that Silver Line Building Products Corp. of North Brunswick, N.J., wants to build a vinyl window factory in nearby Marion, Ohio, that could employ more than 600.