Custom blow molder Best In Plastics Corp. has closed its satellite manufacturing facility in Gastonia, N.C., and sued that plant's one-time principal customer.
The Bolivar-based firm established the site in 1996 primarily to make components under a 10-year supply agreement for the Homelite consumer products business of Deere & Co., a major manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment. Operations began in February 1997 and have supplied parts for lawn and garden products, carrying cases and medical devices.
``There is not enough business to keep two plants open,'' Craig Godwin, Best In Plastics president and chief executive officer, said by telephone. The firm is consolidating remaining work in Bolivar.
Best In Plastics notified 30 full-time Gastonia employees Nov. 19 and discontinued production at the Carolina Division in early December. Some members of the technical staff are weighing offers to relocate to the Ohio facility. At one time, the 38,000-square-foot Gastonia plant had 130 employees, including about 40 doing value-added assembly work.
Deere of Moline, Ill., acquired the Homelite business in 1994 and sold the Homelite-brand hand-held and power equipment products to Hong Kong-based TechTronics Industries Co. Ltd. in late 2001.
Best In Plastics suffered volume losses after much of the Homelite work was moved from a Gastonia facility to Chihuahua, Mexico. Best In Plastics continues to provide some Homelite parts but no longer has the original long-term supplier agreement.
``We have some pending litigation'' with Deere regarding that agreement's breach, Godwin said.
Commenting on the state of the domestic industrial blow molding industry, Godwin said there is ``a lot of capacity out there.'' Best In Plastics has lost some business to Mexico and, recently, to China.
Godwin thought the geographic distance across the Pacific might protect his molding niche from China's intrusion, but he is finding that some blow molders are ``doing business in China and shipping a lot of air'' in delivering the plastics to North America.
Best In Plastics seeks buyers for the six Milacron blow molding machines in Gastonia and may utilize industrial auctioneers. If it made business sense, Best In Plastics could accommodate some of the blow molding equipment in the Bolivar plant.
Formed in 1981, Best In Plastics reported sales of $10 million for the fiscal year ended June 30, down from $13 million in the previous fiscal year.