HPM Corp. is about to get a new owner, after months of uncertainty and a recent shutdown of its machinery plant in Mount Gilead, Ohio.
An Indiana-based company, Taylor's Industrial Services LLC, announced July 30 it has reached an agreement to buy the assets of HPM. The big news for the central Ohio town of Mount Gilead: Taylor's will keep the plant open and continue to build HPM machines.
Company spokesman Rich Metzger said the new owner plans to manufacture all three lines of HPM machines - injection molding presses, extrusion lines and die-casting machines.
``Taylor's is going to operate the business,'' he said.
Officials of Taylor's Industrial Services made it clear that the new owner intends to return HPM to a position of strength.
HPM began a period of financial turmoil late last year. William Flickinger, president and chief operating officer and an HPM veteran, tried to line up investors to buy the company. He said he has offered to work with HPM, probably on a consulting basis.
``It's really been my goal over the last six months that a buyer would come in and run the company,'' he said. ``My hope is that they will work with the company and allow it to grow and restore it to its former self.''
HPM will operate as a division of Taylor's Industrial Services. HPM's new president and chief executive officer, Christopher Filos, also holds those titles at Taylor's. In a news release, Filos said HPM is a solid company with a good future.
``HPM's customers can be confident that HPM will remain permanently secure and will produce consistent, quality products at maximum value for our many loyal customers,'' he said.
Filos said the new owner is committed to providing service and spare parts for the thousands of HPM machines running in plastics and die-casting factories.
Facing the loss of a major employer in rural Mount Gilead, local officials breathed a sigh of relief - although Taylor's officials have not announced how many people they intend to employ.
``All of our discussions have been positive, at this point, from the standpoint of maintaining the business and keeping it here locally,'' said Mount Gilead Mayor Tom Whiston. ``We'll continue to work with them as they proceed through the process. Hopefully they'll make investments and continue to make it a productive company.''
``It looks like it's going to be staying around here and it's not going to be leaving. That's the good news,'' said Morrow County Commissioner Don Staley.
Founded in 1877 to make apple presses, HPM once was a major producer of plastics equipment. In recent years, it employed more than 500 people but has been operating with a skeleton crew since operations shut down July 2. Part of the problem is a market for plastics machinery that many observers say is the worst in a decade.
Even so, Metzger said the new owner is optimistic. ``We think this is a tremendous opportunity, and the company has growth potential to it and has a role to serve in the industry,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Taylor's is seeking a loan from the state of Ohio to help finance the purchase of the building and machinery, according to Dave Williamson, regional representative for Ohio Gov. Robert Taft.
``We've met with them on several occasions,'' said Williamson, who is based in Mansfield, Ohio.
Metzger said Taylor's would not disclose details of any plans for state help.
Williamson said he could not give a dollar amount of how much Taylor's wants. ``They haven't completed all the paperwork that we're requiring,'' he said. ``Obviously, the state wants very much to see that [factory] remain in Mount Gilead.''
Williamson said the new owner will have to provide a target number of job creation at some point, to get state assistance.
Taylor's Industrial Services operates two main businesses. A heavy hauling operation based in New Jersey uses large trucks to haul machines and very large industrial products. In Hobart, Ind., Taylor's does contract manufacturing of large machines such as metal-forming presses, machines for making paper and generating power and construction equipment.
The company does not disclose its sales or number of employees, according to Metzger.
Apparently the new owners will avoid the huge debts HPM has piled up for everything from barrels to controllers. Metzger said he wanted to ``draw a very clear distinction'' about what Taylor's has purchased with the HPM assets.
``The agreement has been reached to purchase the company. That includes all plant and equipment, work in process and finished goods inventory and intellectual property,'' he said.
And what about the liabilities?
``You'd need to contact HPM Corp.,'' Metzger said.