Ultra Tool Co., a Wisconsin mold maker seemingly on the rise a few years ago after buying a second plant, is closing its doors after it completes its current projects.
The company laid off most of its employees Jan. 28 and will liquidate its assets, officials said in a news release sent to Wisconsin media outlets. A former employee reached at Ultra Tool's Grantsburg, Wis., headquarters confirmed the closing.
The injection mold builder, founded in 1978 by Thomas Finn, had gone through stronger times in the recent past. Sold to Thomas Finn's brother Patrick in 1994, the company had grown from about 13 employees when Patrick Finn took over to about 70 people last year.
Finn sits on the national board of directors for the Roselle, Ill.-based American Mold Builders Association. In 2003, the firm was named a ``lead time leader'' by Mold Making Technology magazine for its efforts to reduce time to market for its custom molds.
In 2001, Ultra Tool gained more visibility when it purchased the mold-making division of Triquest Precision Plastics. Ultra Tool kept open the former Triquest Precision Tooling plant in Baxter, Minn., employing 41 and renaming the operation Ultra Tool Baxter LLC.
The company invested about $500,000 in the Baxter facility, while in Grantsburg it added both a Makino high-speed horizontal machining center and equipment for its inspection center in 2002.
But the bottom came quickly for the firm. Finn blamed both the incursion of China as a site for molders and the ``low margin'' business that mold making has become.
Ultra Tool's remaining customers had demanded continual price reductions, while material costs have risen, Finn said in the release, as reported by a local newspaper in Grantsburg.
``We have seen a mass exodus of our customers leaving the United States and moving to China. We haven't been able to develop new customers fast enough to replace the business that has left,'' he said.
The company, a custom toolmaker specializing in molds for multimaterial parts, liquidated the Baxter plant at an auction held in July. The Grantsburg facility has laid off 40 of its 54 remaining workers and will eventually sell the assets after finishing several projects.
Finn did not return several messages seeking comment Jan. 28.