Blair McIntosh, president of newly relaunched film extruder Victory Plastics International LLC, hails callers to his company with a recorded greeting welcoming them back.
Even the company's name connotes a win over adversity, something Victory Plastics is working to achieve. Last July, the extruder formerly known as Vernon Plastics Inc. was shut down, putting 225 people out of work and leaving vacant a large extrusion plant Haverhill, Mass.
``It was a particularly difficult closing in a major area for the state,'' said Ken Goode, a Lowell, Mass.-based vice president of business development for the Massachusetts Economic Development Authority.
Luckily, new owners arrived from Quebec to reopen the longtime operation. That chore has fallen primarily to McIntosh and his partner, Mark Delaney, director of market development. The pair also owns Beckwith Bemis Inc., a small extruder of plastic- and adhesive-coated films and fabrics in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Imperial Wallcoverings Inc. of Cleveland had tried for years to sell Vernon, which it said did not fit its focus. Vernon makes PVC extruded and calendered film for upholstery, pool liners and outdoor advertising, and geosynthetic liners.
When Imperial ran into its own troubles, it entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2000, emerging a year later. Imperial closed Vernon Plastics in July 2003, claiming that the business was on a downward cycle. Four days later, McIntosh heard about the dormant, 172,000-square-foot building in Haverhill and the equipment that was up for sale.
He and several others were scouting for equipment to fill Beckwith Bemis, McIntosh said Jan. 5. He immediately liked the Haverhill facility and saw a fit, he said.
``We talked to some customers and did a little bit of pre-due diligence,'' McIntosh said. ``We realized that there was still a lot of juice left in the company. Within three or four weeks, we decided it made more sense to restart this business as opposed to bringing equipment up to Canada.''
Goode's group, called MassDevelopment, offered a low-interest loan to get the business restarted and to buy equipment. A local development group, the Greater Haverhill Foundation, pitched in with a smaller loan. And Banknorth Group Inc. of Portland, Maine, agreed to help.
The new owners bought the building and equipment from GE Capital, which had taken over payments from Imperial. The company began purchasing equipment, including a new, 103-inch extruder. The facility now has one extrusion line, two calendering lines, three laminators and three printing presses.
The doors quietly reopened in November. With several customers back in place, the newly christened Victory Plastics held its official grand opening Dec. 26. The firm has rehired about 40 people and plans to increase that to 100 during 2004, McIntosh said.
The company plans to move to more specialized products that might require new resins, he said. Under Imperial, the company focused strictly on flexible vinyl.
The firm expects sales to reach $30 million this fiscal year, not quite at the $45 million level recorded by Vernon before its demise.
Victory plans to keep production up while using fewer plant supervisors and administrators, McIntosh said. A new accounting system has been installed, and the company has moved to just-in-time shipping.
The order book looks solid in 2004 right now, McIntosh said. Although the new company will do business as Vernon Plastics for a short time, the Victory Plastics name provides hope, he said.
``Pulling this thing off was a victory in itself,'' McIntosh said.