The owner of a prominent gun manufacturer has taken aim at saving a film extruder and bag maker after its doors were padlocked and it was on the verge of going under for the second time.
Richard Dyke owns Windham, Maine-based Bushmaster Firearms Inc., a well-known name in the hunting world. The 70-year-old businessman also has a side business buying troubled firms, including manufacturers of poker chips and after-shave lotion.
He estimates that he has turned around 48 or 49 companies. So when Dyke saw that Maine Poly Inc. had closed and its lights were darkened for the second time in three years, he could not help but step in. After all, Maine Poly is in Dyke's hometown of Greene, Maine.
``I decided to take a quick look at it,'' Dyke said in an Aug. 17 telephone interview. ``I have a fairly decent nose for this kind of thing. They had sent home everybody and the wolves were at the door.''
Maine Poly has about 40 employees. The company has changed owners several times in recent years, twice as a result of financial troubles.
In 1998, JPB Enterprises Inc. of Columbia, Md., bought the company. But by 2001, citing high resin prices and tough markets, the company shut down, laying off 123 workers.
At that point, New York entrepreneur Kimball Dunton, a friend of Dyke's, bought the company out of Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Dunton, now 84 years old, tried to make a go of it but was burdened by the same debt problems. When Dunton claimed it and reopened the downsized operation, Maine Poly still owed about $5 million to creditor GE Capital Inc.
The sheriff's department padlocked the doors Aug. 6 because the company owed the state and the city money for back taxes and loans.
Dyke worked quickly when he saw the closed plant. The next morning, after a conference call with GE Capital, he had a deal. Dyke said he paid off all but $1 million of debt.
He also engineered a three-year payback on the $330,000 in taxes owed to the city, and he made a payment on this year's taxes. And the state turned a $146,000 loan to Maine Poly into a grant.
``That was a no-brainer,'' said Jack Cashman, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development in Augusta.
``If [Dyke] hadn't stepped up to the plate, the company would be gone,'' Cashman said. ``He's a real hero here. You can imagine how scared people were when they saw that the place was padlocked. Then they get the good news that they were back to work 24 hours later.''
Dyke and business partner Yung Edwards, who runs a Bushmaster gun factory in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and has real-estate interests with Dyke in Las Vegas, took a majority interest in Maine Poly. They brought in a film-industry veteran they knew, Bob Bergeron, from Rhode Island to run the operation.
``[Bergeron] knows how to get a little more mileage out of the equipment, and we've made substantial improvements already,'' Dyke said.
Maine Poly had found market niches under previous owners, selling coextruded, printed and foil bags to package peanuts and pretzels for airlines and dried fruit in retort pouches for grocery stands. The company also had made bags for trade shows. Dyke even had seen Maine Poly's bags at several gun shows.
``I have a lot of friends in the gun industry,'' Dyke said. ``I plan to beg, borrow, plead or bully them into doing business with us.''
Dyke expects to break even in less than 12 months, and he projects $500,000 in sales in September. The attitude at the 64,000-square-foot plant is tremendous, he said.
Dyke also has been involved in politics: In 1999, he was a key fund-raiser for the presidential campaign of President George W. Bush, according to news reports.
But Dyke resigned after a reporter queried Bush about Dyke's Bushmaster ties.
Bushmaster, a maker of automatic rifles and assault weapons, had been the weapon of choice for several convicted murderers, including recent Washington stalkers Lee Malvo and John Mohammed.