HPM Corp. has risen from the dead, with a new owner and a new attitude. Early indications are that Taylor's Industrial Services LLC and its top executive, Christopher Filos, will bring a down-to-earth, realistic style of leadership to the machinery maker in Mount Gilead, Ohio.
One thing is for sure: He's not Neil Kadisha.
When Stadco Inc. bought HPM in 1996, Kadisha boasted he would triple sales of the sleepy company to $300 million. Fellow machinery executives wondered: What planet is this guy from?
The planet was Los Angeles — about as far away from Mount Gilead as you can get. Kadisha ran HPM through four of the six years of ownership by aerospace supplier Stadco Inc. Kadisha also is a director and major shareholder of Qualcomm Inc., a wireless technology giant.
Stadco did invest several million dollars into HPM and its aging factory. The company expanded into Europe and struck a deal for low-cost toggle machines made in Asia.
It all sounded good. Kadisha and company had deep pockets. But it never rang true.
Let's review: HPM. Qualcomm. Mount Gilead. Los Angeles. The Hollywood sign. The World War I monument in downtown Mount Gilead …
Filos isn't making idle boasts. His focus is on getting HPM moving again. He wants HPM to be profitable, but he says the top goal is to do a good job, not to worry about how big it gets.
Kadisha could be flamboyant. People still talk about HPM's breathtaking booth at the 1997 NPE and its dramatic, curvy roof.
Filos knows how to drive large trucks. He delivered industrial machinery for Taylor's Towing and Heavy Hauling, his family's business. He promises to be a hands-on manager, working the phones and visiting customers.
It's been a painful two years for machinery makers. Quite a few equipment executives think there are already too many players; they quietly suggest the industry would be healthier if some companies — some other companies of course, not their own — went out of business.
Recent evidence shows that the U.S. market may be starting to turn around, but conditions remain tense, with competitors waging war over every single order. To survive, HPM will need a strong effort, backed up by the experienced and dedicated employees who returned to work at the machinery maker.
When HPM closed in the summer of 2001, those people lost their jobs. But most stayed around Mount Gilead, a rural area dotted with farms. They didn't leave, and now their hard work will play a key role in HPM's future.
It will be interesting to see what kind of booth the new HPM puts together at NPE 2003. The Chicago show next year will mark HPM's official comeback. By then, we hope, the U.S. machinery market will be on an upswing.
Next year HPM will use NPE to introduce new machinery. But for now, the news is not whether HPM will show an all-electric molding machine. The real news is that machinery making is alive again in Mount Gilead, Ohio.
HPM is open for business.