It's been an eventful 18 months at Lynn Plastics Co. LLC, as the specialty compounder has changed owners, struck a deal with a German firm and now is preparing to launch a line of thermoplastic vulcanizates.
Compounding industry veteran Bruce Petersen bought the Lynn, Mass.-based business from the Goldstein family for an undisclosed amount in July 2002. Petersen had spent 20 years with compounding giant A. Schulman Inc. of Fairlawn, Ohio, and another six with ABS maker and compounder Diamond Polymers Inc. of Akron, Ohio, before deciding to strike out on his own.
``I was looking either to start a company or find an opportunity to buy a company when I learned that Lynn Plastics was for sale,'' Petersen said in a recent telephone interview. ``I knew the company from my days at Schulman and knew that they were well-known for their color quality and consistency.''
The deal was completed in spite of the untimely death of Sidney Goldstein, who founded the firm with his brother Saul in 1968. Sidney Goldstein died from injuries suffered in a fall less than a month after meeting with Petersen in late 2001.
``It was extremely sad that Sidney didn't get to see our deal completed,'' Petersen said. ``But before the accident, he had already told his wife and his broker that selling to me was the right fit and that he wanted the deal to go through.''
Alfred Goldstein - Sidney's nephew and Saul's son - also approved of the sale. Alfred, who still serves as Lynn's president, had controlled his father's share of the business since Saul Goldstein passed away in 1990.
``We needed to reinvigorate the business, and [Petersen] offered a unique opportunity to bring in somebody with a lot of industry experience,'' said Alfred Goldstein. ``We needed to expand, to grow our base of customers and realize our potential.''
Goldstein added that it was very important to his family that the company remain in Lynn. Along the way, the family turned down offers from multinational companies that would have bought and moved the firm, and from Southern states that also tempted them to relocate.
``My father always had great respect for the people who helped us become what we are, and he passed that down to me,'' he said. ``As a private business, we had the luxury of doing the right thing.''
Petersen now owns a business that operates three Banbury mixers and two dry-blending lines in a 250,000-square-foot space. A fourth Banbury is to be installed by the end of 2004.
Lynn, located 10 miles north of Boston, employs about 100 and does more than half of its sales in PVC compounds. Petersen declined to reveal the firm's annual sales, but he confirmed that about two-thirds of its sales are into the automotive market.
Some in the industry would view buying an automotive-focused PVC compounder as a risk, since alleged health and recyclability issues have automakers considering cutting back on their PVC use. Petersen does not agree.
``There are people out there who will say PVC is not a good polymer, but it's tough to beat on overall cost, even in automotive,'' he said. ``They've done a lot of work [to replace PVC] with materials like thermoplastic olefins, but those materials have poor scratch and dent resistance.''
By comparison, Lynn Plastics has what Petersen described as ``a unique family'' of PVC compounds for use in automotive exteriors that meet every automotive test for exposure to road asphalt and gasoline.
Lynn's TPV line will be commercialized in September. They've been testing it with several customers in weather-stripping and other applications. The firm also produces a line of thermoplastic polyurethanes and other thermoplastic elastomers.
In addition to automotive, Lynn's end markets include wire and cable, marine, construction, footwear and sporting goods.
In August, Lynn began a working relationship under which Rowa Group USA Inc. will produce specialty compounds based on PVC, TPUs and other TPEs on two extrusion lines in a mostly vacant 45,000-square-foot building on the Lynn site.
The new firm - with ownership split evenly between Rowa Inc. of Miami and a separate corporation set up by Petersen - is expected to employ 10. Rowa's parent firm is Rowa Group, a Hamburg, Germany-based company that owns four compounding businesses. Rowa's products, such as foaming agents, do not directly compete with Lynn's, but Petersen is hopeful that the businesses eventually will generate growth opportunities for each other.
These might seem like big changes for Lynn Plastics, but they are far from the worst the firm has been through. A 1981 fire destroyed the site's manufacturing operations, but the business survived for four years by using tolling and contract manufacturing until its new facility opened in 1985.
Peterson's move even has family ties. His mother was born in Gloucester, Mass., about 45 miles away from Lynn, and his father hails from Stow, which is on the other side of Boston. Petersen's mother actually was pregnant with him when the family moved from Worcester, Mass., to Akron, where Petersen's father had landed a job with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
``I can remember coming back and vacationing in the area as a kid, so it's kind of like coming full circle,'' said Petersen.