In 1994, three engineers in the Mignin family set out to create a molding company that placed a high emphasis on technology for the automotive industry.
In 2001, MIG Plastics Inc. moved into a 100,000-square-foot building in Morenci specially designed for highly automated production and material delivery to the large-tonnage injection molding presses that were the company's focus.
The only hitch was that the founders - Mark Mignin, his father Tom and brother Matt - did not have the sales contacts needed to push MIG forward.
``The vision was there,'' said Jeff Owen. ``The problem was that they couldn't grow the business quickly enough to support the vision.''
So now Owen, who already operated his own manufacturing representation company, has taken a majority stake in the newly renamed Palm Plastics LLC in a deal that also keeps the Mignin family on board to oversee the firm's technology.
Already, the $12 million molding operation has enough business booked to add a 2,200-ton press from Milacron Inc. to the existing fleet of 13 machines. Palm is expanding employment to 110 from 70 by the start of the year and looking to add blow molding within the next year. It also is in talks to build a small plant in Mexico, co-located with a customer.
``The key things I was missing, he had, and the key things he was missing, I had,'' said Mark Mignin, the former president of MIG and now advanced engineering manager of Palm, in an Oct. 22 interview at the company.
The deal was finalized for an undisclosed amount Nov. 17, but changes began months before the ink was dry.
Owen, president of Jeffrey Owen & Associates of Sterling Heights, Mich., brought in Bob Pepper, a former executive with Textron Automotive Co. Inc. and Webasto Roof Systems Inc. to serve as general manager of Palm. He has taken on day-to-day duties.
``This was a great opportunity for me to get in on the ground floor of a world-class molding facility,'' Pepper said.
Palm specializes in bringing value-added production to large components, a niche the Mignin family entered because it saw fewer competitors in the large-tonnage arena.
``Our thought process was that as the industry pushed engineering down through the supply chain, they would need a company that was technologically strong and had the automation and low overhead to be able to compete,'' Mignin said.
The Morenci plant has automated systems for resin delivery and purging. There are two 35-ton overhead cranes and new investments in magnets to speed mold changes. As it is, the company has the capacity to support four times as much business as it does now.
Its presses range in size from 170 tons of clamping pressure up to 3,000, with an emphasis on machines 500 tons and larger. It also has capability for Trexel Inc.'s MuCell process on its 3,000-ton machine.
It also has proprietary in-line compounding units and is developing a paint replacement system for injection molded parts.
Palm turns out a variety of interior and exterior parts as well as functional systems including fans. The company recently launched production on its first major nonautomotive contract, an injection molded skateboard ramp unit.
Palm has set aside 5,000 square feet for assembly for new customers and is overseeing program management for a variety of suppliers.
It has been relatively easy to convince customers to sign on with Palm once they see the facility, Owen said. The key was linking his key contacts to the site's capabilities.
``The customer base we are pursuing has huge demands for quality,'' he said. ``We've got a real ability here to grow with the customers as they consolidate their supply base.''