Jose Perez knew that the economy has not been kind to toolmakers, that Florida has not been a toolmaking haven, and that bank financing for his new business would not come easily.
Yet, that has not deterred him from plans to open a new tooling company, P.R. Manufacturing LLP, in Poinciana, Fla., by the end of April. P.R. Manufacturing will be one of the few minority-owned mold-making shops in the country, a status Perez said he will use to his advantage.
``We know there is a necessity here,'' he said in a March 21 telephone interview. ``We are looking at companies with diversified minority programs. We'll be able to channel that and take any opportunity that comes along.''
Perez is a 35-year plastics industry veteran. He worked for more than a dozen years as plant manager of container maker P&E Inc. of Orlando, Fla., before deciding more than a year ago to enter toolmaking.
Roselle, N.J.-based Lincoln Mold & Die Corp. will hold a minority piece of Perez's new business, he said. Lincoln closed its Cucamonga Mold subsidiary in Redlands, Calif., last year and has transferred equipment to the Florida operation, he added.
The name P.R. stands for Perez and Raymonds, the latter being the name of the family that owns Lincoln Mold. It does not stand for Puerto Rico, where Perez was born, he said.
Perez's brother George works as technology director at Lincoln. While the relationship with Jose helped get the business started, George Perez said the company saw an opportunity to expand its business south by assisting the new company. Lincoln primarily makes closure molds for containers.
Still, George also said that his brother faced an uphill battle. ``If it wasn't for him, it wouldn't have gotten done,'' he said. ``He had too many hurdles to jump over.''
One of those was bank financing. While no mainland banks would fund the new shop, Jose Perez went to Banco Popular de Puerto Rico for financing, backed by a guarantee from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The company is leasing a 10,000-square-foot space in an industrial park and has room to grow to 40,000 square feet. P.R. Manufacturing will make both injection and thermoform molds and perform repair work, Perez said. He plans to add injection molding and thermoforming for parts sampling within the next year, he said. The business will start with 10 people.
He is targeting the packaging and aerospace industries and wants to work with companies that need tool repairs outside the United States, including in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Florida has lost several tool shops in recent years, including the closing of Precise Technology Inc.'s Precise Massie plant in St. Petersburg last year.
But Perez said that many packaging companies also have plants in central Florida and few toolmakers.
``That was one of the biggest problems we faced [at P&E],'' he said. `There's kind of a void there.''